A SPECIAL “roadtrain” vehicle linking a proposed new supermarket and Jedburgh town centre could have been an option to allay concerns from traders and others about the impact of a new retail development on local businesses, it has emerged.
Monday’s meeting of Scottish Borders Council’s planning committee saw members vote 8-4 to reject the application from Sheppy Industries to erect a foodstore on the former Oregon Timber Frame company premises in Station Yard, Edinburgh Road.
This was despite two of Jedburgh’s three Scottish Borders councillors being in favour of the scheme. The application was recommended for refusal on the grounds that it would have meant loss of allocated employment land and that it would affect the vitality of the town centre.
Both councillors Len Wyse (Con) and Jim Brown (SNP) were in favour of the proposals, while Sandy Scott (Con) was less enthusiastic.
Councillor Brown – who is a member of the planning committee – said he was very disappointed with the decision. “For the officers to say that this site can only be used for manufacturing is very strange.
“On the neighbouring sites we have a total of five retail-orientated businesses – two woollen mills, one filling station, one cake and coffee shop and one caravan site. Once the first one was allowed, the game was up and I am sure that the developer will stand a good chance of winning an appeal.
“The only problem is the town may lose the chance to gain some spin-off benefits that could have been outlined today.”
Councillor Brown added the new supermarket could have created up to 100 vital new jobs and a near-derelict old factory would have been demolished and replaced with modern car-parking.
“We could also have had competition in the grocery market with a supermarket that would have led to better choice and lower prices,” he told TheSouthern.
“At the later stages of planning we could have asked for some restrictions in the floorspace for clothing, papers/magazines, toys, flowers etc., to help our High Street traders.
“And had this gone through, I’d intended to ask the developer to help fund a ‘roadtrain-type’ vehicle which would have helped link the two retail areas of the town with our historic buildings and museums.
“There is no doubt that this site is ideal for retail purposes. Instead, we are faced with more years of looking at what amounts to a crumbling, boarded-up eyesore on our town boundary.
“There are numerous other local sites that could be used for manufacturing and I am sure we could have approached the developers for some funding to bring them on stream,
“I am not sure what this decision has actually gained. But I do know that the future of Jedburgh has once again been dealt a body blow by some of the administration members at SBC – lets hope that the people of the Borders remember this in the election next May.”
However, his fellow Jedburgh councillor, Sandy Scott (Con), admitted he was not disappointed the application had been refused.
“I’ve always shaded against it, to be honest. I never thought it would get approval anyway, as it is against policy and would have meant the loss of industrial land,” he told us.
“I know the traders were dead against, as they were worried it would draw shoppers away from the town centre. The woollen mill [Edinburgh Woollen Mill] already does that and so, I suspect, this proposed supermarket, if approved, would not have helped that situation one little bit. In fact, I think it would probably have made it worse.”
Alan Cameron, chairman of the Jedburgh Alliance group, says the organisation has remained neutral in the supermarket debate, seeing neither significant benefits or drawbacks for the town if it had been granted approval.
“Most of the residents tended to be in favour, while the traders have been against this,” said Mr Cameron.
However, he admitted he thinks it will only be a matter of time before a supermarket application for the town is successful.
“Someone will eventually get approval. But our view is that we need to get the Co-op store in the town to do a better job and intend launching a couple of initiatives to try and do just that.
“At the moment there is a bit of a mismatch between what the Co-op does and what customers want and we would like to see that rectified.”