Letters to the Editor

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Here are the letters sent to us this week that can be seen on page 10. If you have a letter you can e-mail it to news@mearnsleader.com or mail it to 12 Ann Street, AB39 2ER.

Supermarket - Passionate about Stoney

Sir- Fair enough, Mrs Bruce; I deserved that. Nevertheless, those who have read the exchange of letters between us will realise that we are both passionate about Stonehaven and wish to see the best possible future for the town which means so much to us.

Where we differ is in our view of the best location for any future major retail development for Stonehaven. Mrs Bruce is not as convinced as I am that an edge of/out of town development is very likely to have a detrimental effect on the existing town centre, and cites three examples where she would argue supermarket development has resulted in a thriving town centre. Unfortunately, they tend to prove my point.

In both Montrose and Inverurie, the supermarkets are within walking distance of the town centres (0.1 and 0.2 miles respectively) and not about two miles away on the other side of a bypass as almost all of those proposed for Stonehaven are.

I would again draw Mrs Bruce’s attention to the letter from the chairman of M&Co who points to research which indicates that people will confine themselves to one retail location if they have to walk more than a couple of hundred metres.

While I admire her commitment to supporting local businesses, unfortunately, for too many people, convenience trumps loyalty every time.

Banchory is often held up as an example of a town centre which disproves the claim that edge of/out of town retail developments harm existing town centres.

However, Banchory has now lost its pet and toy shops, and some of your readers may have noticed a recent planning application requesting permission to change an existing town centre premises from commercial to residential use.

I am unsure why Mrs Bruce thinks that I am opposed to further retail development in Stonehaven, or her justification for the accusation of Nimbyism on my part.

In fact, I agree with her that what is needed is choice and competition. However, I fear that if we end up with an edge of settlement supermarket then both will become even more restricted, our town centre will continue to decline as footfall is further reduced, and there is the distinct possibility that she won’t have the option of shopping at our butcher and fishmonger.

And so to the thorny question of where best to locate a supermarket.

There are two existing edge of centre sites which deserve careful consideration – the Recreation Grounds and Spurryhillock - neither of which should be dismissed out of hand.

Clearly Mrs Bruce has not looked at STP’s Plan B. If she had then she would know that the tennis courts, bowling greens and putting area remain as they are.

Indeed, it allows for the possibility of an additional tennis court.

She would also know that Plan B was a vision for the area between the River Cowie and the Queen Elizabeth II Caravan Site – not just the Recreation Grounds.

She would know that it offered ideas for enhanced leisure facilities as well as opportunities for retail development, a significant majority of those who took the time to consider the proposals and who participated in the consultation exercise warmly welcomed the development potential of this area contained within the Plan B proposals.

Furthermore, the retail possibilities could provide the opportunity for a Lidl, Tesco Metro or M&S Simply Food and still leave space for other outlets.

As for STP rejecting all alternative sites, I suggest that Mrs Bruce go to the STP website and look at the report commissioned by STP entitled Economic Critique of Retail Proposals in Stonehaven.

It demonstrates that the site at Spurryhillock (labelled CC1 in the Local Development Plan) comes out top when all possible supermarket sites, including the Recreation Grounds, in and around the town are matched against a set of six broad economic development related indicators.

So, sites which present much less of a risk to the viability and vitality of the town centre and which are more likely to reduce significantly the present 70% retail leakage do exist. What is required now is a willingness to consider dispassionately all options.

Finally, Mrs Bruce asks me to contemplate that I might be mistaken.

Should the upshot be that Stonehaven ends up with an edge of/out of town supermarket then I sincerely hope I am.

Yours etc.,

Douglas Samways

Stonehaven,

Boys brigade - Positive year

Sir- As 2014 draws to a close, we reflect on what has been a positive year for The Boys’ Brigade in Scotland.

The role our young people have played in driving the organisation forward has been overwhelming. Through our ‘Growing Bigger, Growing Better’ recruitment campaign, our young people have engaged in their local communities through a range of activities, resulting in an increase in 800 new members, since September.

Our young people have also undertaken a world record attempt for the longest game of five-aside football as a fund-raising initiative for The BB, whilst also thinking about others.

Additionally we raised over £11,000 for the Church of Scotland’s World Mission Fund, which will help young people in the Czech Republic.

This year has also witnessed a record number of young people achieve the highest recognition in our organisation – the Queen’s Badge.

In 2014, 600 young people – an increase of 150 awards since 2013 – achieved the honour and, in doing so, contributed 40,000 volunteering hours to their communities.

Collectively, this highlights the continued relevance of The Boys’ Brigade to today’s young people.

However, we couldn’t have achieved such impressive outcomes without the help of thousands of volunteers who work tirelessly behind the scenes, and to them we are extremely grateful.

Looking ahead, we hope to welcome new adult volunteers to help us achieve even more. In addition, we’re committed to improving our Under 11’s programme as well as to improving our facilities at our national training centre in Larbert, as we seek to continue to make a positive impact on the lives of children and young people.

Yours etc.,

Bill Stevenson

Director, Scotland

The Boys’ Brigade