A LARGE crowd turned out this week to a meeting of Cree Valley Community Council to argue their cases for and against the proposed new supermarket outside Newton Stewart.
With around 50 supporters filling up the meeting room of the McMillan Hall, and just a handful of objectors, both sides were given a fair chance to talk to James Harbison and Ritchie Grierson of CWP, the development company eyeing up the proposed site at Barnkirk, but was apparent that support outweighed opposition.
Mr Harbison began by explaining the new supermarket would offer 100 full-time equivalent jobs and a mix of full- and part-time totalling 150.
“The business community is much divided on our plans, and I acknowledge that, and we are putting together a retail impact assessment which will form part of the planning application due to be submitted this month.”
Responding to the presentation, Whithorn Community Council chairman Francis O’Neill said that, like many others, he had to drive to do his fortnightly shopping somewhere such as Stranraer and would rather do it in Newton Stewart when he’s there for other business.
Walter Orr added: “My wife likes to shop a lot, so when we go to Castle Douglas for the Tesco food, we also take a wander into town and we’ll have lunch and look in the other shops. This may not be everyone’s pattern but it certainly is for a lot of folk.
“The likes of Asda don’t offer a hairdresser, or a bookie’s, or a charity shop so people will still need to come into the town for those things. And I have to say Castle Douglas high street is probably one of the most thriving in this region – you can’t get parked there sometimes.”
His daughter Lana added: “I work in Stranraer and I couldn’t tell you the last time I filled up my car in Newton Stewart because I know I can get my diesel cheaper when I go to work.”
Rob Harford caused laughter by announcing that you cannot buy an old-fashioned mop in the town, adding to applause that he’d been looking for 18 months and local shops were overpriced.
He added: “It will be a great day for Newton Stewart when this shop opens.”
Tony Gibbon said people want competitive prices but aren’t getting them. He added: “This development is not just for Newton Stewart. It’s for the Machars, Creetown, Whithorn and further afield. Wigtownshire Chamber of Commerce says that Newton Stewart needs regeneration – well, that has to come from local businesses but these businesses are only looking after themselves.”
Peter Jeal, from the chamber of commerce, argued the proposals would actually reduce the number of jobs in the town, adding he had evidence showing the area’s cheapest petrol came from an independent garage.
Plumber Jamie Hyslop added that the issue most traders have with the shop is its location. He said: “It’s not that the businesses are opposed to a bit of competition but we would prefer to see it within easy walking distance of the town centre.”
Newton Stewart Business Association chairman Gordon Andrews said: “We don’t see this site as Newton Stewart. It’s the outskirts – it’s on the A75.”
Mr Grierson said there were no other suitable sites of the correct size with no flooding or contamination issues.
Councillor Alistair Geddes responded to suggestions the retail impact assesment would be one-sided by saying it would be heavily scrutinised.
Councillor Sandra McDowall added that people in Castle Douglas objected to Tesco wishing to open a filling station so it was removed. She said: “Now two of the town’s filling stations have closed and no-one can blame Tesco for that.”
Mr Harbison finished by saying: “Is Newton Stewart open for business? We believe it is.”