MORE than 200 people have joined a campaign on the Facebook social networking site, while 100 have signed an online petition, all calling for a new supermarket in Jedburgh, writes Mark Entwistle.
The campaign and petition were sparked after Scottish Borders Council planning committee last week rejected an application from developers for a 14,000sq ft supermarket on land at the northern end of the town formerly occupied by the Oregon Timber Frame firm.
Planning officials recommended that the application from Sheppy Industries should be turned down because it contravened development policies – the site was part of land zoned for industrial use.
The outpouring of anger which has resulted from the committee’s decision has seen a fresh application submitted to SBC planners.
This time, however, it is under the name of Kelso-based developer, Crabtree & Crabtree, which took over the project from Sheppy Industries some time ago.
Although many traders in Jedburgh fear a supermarket on the edge of the town would suck business away from the town centre, two of the three local Scottish Borders councillors, Len Wyse and Jim Brown, have supported the idea of a supermarket on this site. The town’s other elected representative at Newtown St Boswells, Sandy Scott, has been reluctant to back the project.
Councillor Wyse told TheSouthern this week that news of the Facebook campaign and petition had come as no surprise. “When the application first went in, there was strong verbal support for a supermarket in the town from the residents,” he said. “The community council was also in favour.
“It came as a big knockback to the locals when application was refused. If the applicant goes to appeal then this petition could strengthen their case.
“Meanwhile, I am trying to arrange a meeting with the chief executive of the Co-op, who is based in Manchester, to see if they can do something to improve the facility they have in Jedburgh.
“Much of the criticism is aimed at the Co-op for not providing the town with a similar facility to what other towns have. They have the ideal site, good car parking, yet folk go out of town to shop.”
Councillor Scott’s position is that if people want the land in question to be made available for retail uses such as a supermarket, it needs to be done through the correct planning process.
“Basically I was trying to say if one wants a supermarket, one should go about it through the planning process – that`s what the policies and regulations are for. They try to stop people making on-the-spot, ad hoc decisions, which they may come to regret,” he said.
“This land is earmarked for employment land - if you want a supermarket, go through the consultation process, which we have all just done, and change the land use to, say, retail. But where are you going to put a factory afterwards?”
Among those who have signed the online petition and added comments is Jen Logue, who said: “This town is a ghost town and having the supermarket would bring income into the town.”
Liz Ramsay posted: “Jedburgh needs a new supermarket. At the moment the Co-operative has the monopoly in the town; they need competition, and we need more choice.”
Jim Waldie writes: “Councillors that did not back this issue should be voted off at the next election – they are really out of touch with what the Jedburgh people need and what they want.”
Crabtree and Crabtree says it resubmitted the application in response to what it called the “groundswell” of genuine local concern and unhappiness that had been expressed about the decision to reject the application.
Geoff Crabtree says there is no doubt the local community needs, and would welcome, the 100 full and part-time jobs a food store would bring. “There has been no demand for the site for employment use for many years and therefore no jobs,” he said.
“The site is allocated for employment - if supermarket jobs are not real jobs what are they?”