PLANNING officials at North Lanarkshire Council have recommended that Sainsbury’s application to open a store in Motherwell be rejected.
The retail giant hope to receive a favourable reaction when their bid to build a 60,000ft supermarket on the former bus garage site on Hamilton Road goes before the planning hearing committee on Wednesday, September 12.
However, they will now need to work hard to persuade councillors to reject their own officials’ recommendation.
The planning application attracted 65 letters of representation, 31 objections and 30 of support. In addition, Chester Properties, owners of the Brandon Shopping Centre, submitted a 170 -signature petition against the plans.
In the report to the committee the recommendation to refuse has been made on the grounds that the application does not comply with the Glasgow and Clyde Valley strategic development plan and the draft local development plan.
This essentially means that, while the site is within Motherwell, it is not within what is classed as Motherwell town centre, and despite creating 300 full and part-time jobs would have a negative impact on the town centre.
However, the report suggests that all other aspects of the proposal are in line with council planning policy.
Paul Miller, national development surveyor for Sainsbury’s Scotland, said: “We are disappointed to hear that the North Lanarkshire Council planners are not supportive of our proposals for a new Sainsbury’s in Motherwell.
“We believe that our proposals would bring a number of benefits to the local area, including the regeneration of a derelict site and job creation.
“Our detailed Retail Impact Assessment showed the proposed store will have no significant adverse impact on the current town centre and is likely to persuade people not to leave and spend their money in other areas.”
Lanarkshire Chamber of Commerce’s Malcolm Southern, himself a Motherwell businessman, was surprised at the recommendation.
He said: “Although we understand there are those who are concerned about the impact on local retailers, we are satisfied with the evidence that this proposal is likely to be beneficial to those who offer specialised retailing, as it will attract shoppers who would not otherwise consider Motherwell as a shopping venue, and it will create diversity of choice for daily needs.”
Motherwell and Wishaw’s MP Frank Roy and MSP John Pentland have both told the planning department to reconsider the recommendation.
Mr Roy said: “I still very much welcome the investment that Sainsbury’s would bring to Motherwell. Indeed an ongoing survey on my website shows 77 per cent support for a new Sainsbury’s in Motherwell, with 13 per cent against and 10 per cent undecided.
“It’s clear the vast majority of the population of my constituency want this investment to go ahead.”
Mr Pentland added: “I think the new supermarket would, if anything, reverse the historic flow of trade away from the area, bringing people to the area to do their shopping and thus stimulate the local economy.
“This is an opportunity for significant investment that would create 300 jobs in an area of high unemployment, which particularly affects young people, and increase choice in an area that has suffered from retail closures.
“I know that this differs from the strategic and local plans, but these are essentially guidelines and not tablets of stone.
“I hope elected members will take a broader view, such exceptional circumstances justify exceptions to the plans.”
Sainsbury’s are holding meetings on Wednesday, September 5, in The Moorings Hotel on Hamilton Road for local traders at 6.30pm and members of the public at 8pm to provide a final opportunity for issues to be discussed.