Supermarket discounter Lidl has dipped its toes in the Gala Water, showing interest in taking over two units in the Comely Bank retail park.
The supermarket chain has two other stores in the Borders, at Hawick and Kelso, however, it has a few obstacles in its way in Galashiels, even though it is expected that it would bring around 40 jobs to the town.
Firstly, a previous planning application for the site for the existing three retail units – Matalan, Carpetright and Currys – had within it a condition that it was limited to non-food retailing only, in accord with the practices of the local plan.
And secondly, the town’s community council is almost unanimous in its belief that there are already enough supermarkets in the town.
As far as the first obstacle goes, an application to remove that condition has been lodged by Nectar Asset Management, which stated that there had been interest from Lidl to take over one or two of the buildings.
The application states: “This condition variation is sought due to current market uncertainty and to provide greater flexibility should one or both of the units become vacant in the short to medium term.
“Carpetright announced their CVA in 2018 and the unit was put on the market via Colliers in May 2018.
No enquiries were received whatsoever except for from Lidl in December.
“As a result there is a high risk that this unit and potentially the entire park could be become vacant in 2021 when all three leases expire unless the consent is widened.
“It is therefore anticipated that the units could be combined and occupied by Lidl who are a deep-discount food store operator and have shown interest in the premises.
“The focus of this statement is therefore on the deep-discount operators. Due to the limited size of the premises it is not considered necessary or appropriate to assess the suitability of a supermarket chain operating from the site.
Another discount chain, Aldi, has its store a stone’s throw from the site, on the other side of the road.
And, community council chairman Judith Cleghorn believes that this, along with Asda, Tesco, Iceland, Farmfoods, Spar, Marks and Spencer and McColls, is plenty.
She said: “I just don’t think there is a need for any more. We don’t want any more people being taken away from the town centre.”
At the meeting last week, her sentiments were widely applauded, but not by all.
Helen Calder said: “I don’t think it’s enough to say we have enough supermarkets, it’s down to personal choice.”
And Bill White added: “The way the supermarket industry is going, Lidl and Aldi are definitely on the up, and we should be a bit cautious.”
He also reminded the committee that it could not object to something just because members didn’t like it.
He added: “You need to forensically examine the salient points.”
Liz Jardine said: “I’d be more worried about the volume of traffic using the junction.
“It’s hard enough coming out of there as it is.”
Community councillors were tasked with getting back to their planning representative Rick Kenney before the deadline so a proper response could be penned.