Council stands firm on supermarket decision

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OPPOSITION to a proposed supermarket on the outskirts of Linlithgow, which could pull shoppers - and potentially £2 million of spending - out of Bo’ness town centre, has been unanimously upheld by Falkirk Council’s planning committee.

The renewed verdict came after fresh retail information, recently submitted by applicant Wallace Land to West Lothian Council, included the first details of the potential impact on Bo’ness town centre trade.

Bo’ness would provide the Burghmuir store, now reduced in size by a third to 40,000 square feet and sited 2.3 miles from its eastern edge, with 47 per cent of its catchment population.

Falkirk Council’s comments on the latest retail statement were asked for by West Lothian Council, which it is believed could rule on a wider application, including the supermarket, on April 17.

Wednesday’s opposition - in line with development services boss Rhona Geisler’s recommendation, despite a Wallace Land assertion Bo’ness shops wouldn’t be significantly hit - maintained a decision made last April.

The proposed store would accelerate expenditure leakage from Bo’ness, reduce town centre activity levels, and lessen the prospect of new town centre food shopping investment, Ms Geisler claimed in an update report.

According to the submitted statement around 75 per cent of it would house convenience goods (chiefly food) with a quarter for comparison goods like electrical items, clothing, DVDs, DIY.

*A £1.65m convenience trade diversion - £1.29m of this from Tesco - is estimated from Bo’ness town centre, nine per cent of current convenience turnover (consultants for West Lothian Council put it at £1.9m).

*£0.3m of comparison trade could go to Burghmuir, five per cent of comparison turnover.

The retail statement had claimed there would be no significant effect on overall performance of the town centre, which it assessed as fairly healthy, attracting moderate numbers of people, but with limited choice of retail goods and services.

It argued while attracting substantial trade from Bo’ness residents, this was mostly going to Grangemouth and Falkirk already. Tesco, it suggested, could withstand predicted impact levels.

Ms Geisler’s report referred to a near one-third decline, over 1998-2009, in the proportion of local residents doing their main food shop at Tesco, and said there was evidence the store was undertrading.

It claimed there would be a significant effect on town centre vitality and viability, and council aspirations and recent efforts to improve it would be undermined.

A need for better food shopping was highlighted in this month’s council-backed proposed Falkirk Local Development plan.

Jason Wallace said on Wednesday Wallace Land was ‘clearly disappointed’ with Falkirk’s continued objection, especially after its support for new M9 (Junction 3) slip roads, delivered via the development.

The scheme held ‘clear economic benefits’ for Bo’ness, as backed by West Lothian Chamber of Commerce, creating investment and job opportunities. It could also draw new visitor trade he said.

Tesco said earlier this week its Bo’ness store continued to trade well and remained popular with customers.