Plans for a £12m hotel and shop complex at Tweedbank could hit trade in nearby towns and villages to the tune of more than £14m a year, fears a rival retailer.
The Co-op Group is objecting to the proposed Borders Gateway development being lined up for Tweedbank Industrial Estate, claiming it will have a much bigger impact on nearby high streets than previously predicted.
The retail chain is particularly worried about trade being drawn away from Melrose and Selkirk, both home to Co-op stores, but it is also voicing concerns about the 5.68-acre out-of-town site’s potential impact on Galashiels.
Glasgow-based consultancy firm North Planning and Development has lodged an objection with Scottish Borders Council on behalf of the Co-op on the grounds that the plans, drawn up by Edinburgh firm New Land Assets, could seriously hit trade in several nearby towns and the village of Newtown, also home to a Co-op.
“The proposed convenience good sales floorspace exceeds the combined convenience sales floorspace within Melrose, Newtown St Boswells and St Boswells,” writes North director Graeme Laing.
“The development of up to 2,310sq m of retail floorspace at Tweedbank would cause significant harm to the vitality and viability of Melrose, Selkirk, Galashiels and Newtown St Boswells.”
He fears the Borders Gateway project – to be made up of a 71-bedroom Premier Inn, BP garage, Costa Coffee outlet, Marks and Spencer food store and another shop yet to be identified – could have a total turnover of between £14.1m and £16.3m a year, well above the developer’s estimate of £10m.
“The applicant’s study predicts a 3% trade draw from Melrose town centre, something we consider to be an underestimate,” says Mr Laing.
“It is reasonable to assume at least 10% of the proposed development’s trade would be drawn from Melrose.
“This would result in a trade draw of £1.28m if the proposed food store were operated by a discounter and £1.52m if it were operated by a mainstream convenience retailer.
“Retail imports on this scale would have very serious consequences for Melrose town centre, most likely bringing about store closures.”
North also calculates that almost three-quarters of the trade likely to be drawn to the Borders Gateway would come from Galashiels, some £10.94m, and that 12% would be taken out of Selkirk, leaving it £1.82m worse off.
Mr Laing adds: “The anticipated impacts on Galashiels town centre are less significant, but the proposals will certainly not support the health of the centre, which is experiencing challenges, as evidenced by recent Scottish Borders Council retail surveys.
“The council’s survey data illustrates the fragile nature of the town centres, particularly Melrose, where vacancy rates have been steadily increasing and pedestrian footfall declining.”
Galashiels Community Council is also objecting, and its vice-chairman, Richard Kenney, says: “There will be detrimental effects on Galashiels if this out-of-town development should go ahead.
“The increased number and capacity of petrol stations for the area will result in lack of business overall and the possible closure of existing businesses.”
“Existing Galashiels retailers are already facing severe economic challenges, and the addition of another store and major catering provider in this location would increase the possible closure of more Galashiels shops and therefore create the loss of more jobs.”