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Business / Scalloway Co-op given planning go-ahead

Two ward councillors scrutinise proposal – with Moraig Lyall saying she could not support the plans

Photo: Malcolm Younger for Shetland News

A NEW Co-op store at East Voe in Scalloway has been given the green light to go ahead by Shetland Islands Council’s planning committee.

The decision was made at a meeting this afternoon (Monday).

But following pressure from local councillor Davie Sandison a condition will be added to the planning consent around creating a pavement on the other side of the road opposite the store in a bid to allay concerns over pedestrian safety.

The motion to move the recommendation to approve the application was made by Lerwick member Malcolm Bell, who warned that the committee was “not a competition regulator”.

It comes after a similar sized Co-op in Sandwick received planning permission in October by officers under delegated authority because there were no statutory objections for that proposal.

The developer behind the two stores – which will be similar in size to the Brae Co-op – say they will create a combined 40 full and part-time jobs.

But the proposals provoked strong concern that they would have a negative impact on the existing local retail and wholesale sector – potentially leading to job losses.

Bell said it would be “strange” to deny Scalloway residents similar amenities to those available elsewhere – noting repeated concerns in the past that things are too Lerwick-centric.

“Are we really saying these people should not have the same choice as people in Lerwick, people in Brae, people in Sandwick shortly?”

“All in all, I believe this is a good thing. It would be an enhancement for Scalloway and the surrounding areas.”

There were six councillors present on the committee and Bell was joined by Shetland South member Robbie Macgregor and North Mainland’s Emma Macdonald in supporting the application.

As Macdonald is the chair she would have had the casting vote if it was split down the middle – meaning the application was destined to go through.

As a Voe resident, she said the local shop there has grown since the arrival of the Brae Co-op – which has been used as a blueprint for the Scalloway and Sandwick stores – around five years ago.

Macdonald also said when she heads to Brae for the Co-op then she may pick up food from Frankie’s or visit the village’s garage – bringing extra custom to other businesses.

The matter came in front of the committee because there was an unresolved objection from Scalloway Community Council over the impact the store could have on the centre of the village, which plays host to two local shops.

Councillors on the committee were recommended by planning staff to approve the Scalloway development.

Officers felt the proposal complied with the local development plan and that it would “provide employment opportunities, enhance local shopping provision in the local area and contribute to the viability of the existing settlement”.

In a report to councillors, the planning department said it is “clear that there is a level of disagreement on the economic impact the proposal will have on other retail enterprises” in the two areas.

But it stated: “As the planning system in Scotland does not protect the interests of individual businesses that are likely to be in competition with one another the representations of objection in regards to this would not constitute a material planning consideration.”

The Scalloway Community Council’s view was that a new Co-op shop at East Voe would threaten the future sustainability of the centre of the village, as well as the long-term development of the waterfront and centre.

Its chairman John Hunter presented the community council’s concerns to Monday’s meeting – while Alastair Ness from property developer Seamount also spoke.

Hunter said it was the “heart of the community that needs to be protected”.

Planning officers said concerns over the impact of an East Voe Co-op on the recently adopted Scalloway Local Place Plan, and around the economic effect it could have on the centre of the village, could not be taken as a material consideration.

Planners say that the place plan “does not preclude by definition of implication that development cannot take place elsewhere”.

Representing the Shetland Central ward, which includes Scalloway, at Monday’s meeting were Davie Sandison and Moraig Lyall.

One of Sandison’s concerns was that the plans include re-routing a public footpath through the edge of site and making pedestrians cross over the junction into the store’s parking area.

He also noted there was no pavement on the other side of the road, which people use to get into Scalloway for school and other amenities.

Sandison said he was likely to oppose the application on the basis of pedestrian safety, which echoed worries from the community council, but suggested he was open to changing his mind if a condition was imposed, which Bell was happy to agree to.

Colin Gair from the council’s roads department said a new pavement opposite the store had crossed officers’ minds, but it was previously felt there was not enough footfall to merit developing it further.

Sandison said, having spent around nine months listening to all opinions on the matter, that in his view the Scalloway community was two to one against the proposal.

He told the committee that in questioning the proposal he was representing the views of the community.

Sandison felt the analysis of how the development sat with planning policy was “quite scant” and expressed disappointment at the extent of how the Scalloway place plan factored into the proposals.

He felt that “people are working in their own silos”.

His ward colleague Moraig Lyall said she could not support the application as she had “serious concerns” that it would compromise future generations in meeting their own needs, which is a planning policy.

During the meeting Lyall suggested Tingwall would have been a better location for the store than East Voe.

Co-op representative Chris Barter said the idea for Scalloway came from suggestions from customers.

The national retailer said it was keen to stock more local products in its stores, but North Mainland member Andrea Manson questioned the amount of Shetland products stocked in the Brae Co-op.

Following the decision, Ness said: “We have engaged extensively with the local community and other stakeholders throughout the planning application process, and I’d like to thank all of those that took time to respond to the consultation.

“The store will create around 20 new full- and part-time jobs and an overall investment of £1.2 million.

“We anticipate that construction will begin in the middle of 2022 with the store welcoming customers by early 2023.”