Letters to the Editor

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 debate

Passionate about Stoney

Sir, - Thank you, Mr Samways, for the modestly challenging response, fair enough you say, off to a good start thinks I, however downhill from there as we descend to the gloomy depths of assumptions and condescending remarks. I have read the STP “Plan B” many times, on the whole a very informative document, however you are correct it was remiss of me to omit the detail that you are so fond off, it is only the bowling club that is being demolished! I particularly liked the statement “The strategies of big grocery retailers are moving towards becoming good neighbours, as opposed to putting their neighbours out of business – what a fantastic opportunity for towns like Stonehaven to grasp” so why all the scaremongering about local businesses?

The NIMBY comment came from your support for retail development in constrained sites like Spurryhillock and recreation grounds when you “passionately” objected to retail development at the Mill Inn filling station, much closer to town centre. Spurryhillock has very poor access and is actually 1.2 km from the town centre, the recreation grounds are currently unavailable! How presumptuous “a significant majority of those who took the time …………etc.” The significant majority of folk who understand the proposal warmly welcomed it at the town hall. Why so narrow of vision? A supermarket could serve everyone in the area, hard to believe there is hardly a supermarket between Stonehaven and Dundee let alone a fuel station. Still, at least we are all agreed that Stonehaven does need more choice.

God gave us two ears and one mouth for good reason. Wishing you all the best for 2015.

Yours etc.,

Jackie Bruce

via email

Long-term viewpoint

Sir- The letter from Mr Sutcliffe on the subject of supermarkets (Mearns Leader, January 2) really does need to be challenged. This piece insinuates that the wishes of thousands of residents are being disregarded in favour of lobbyists, among whom the chair of the Stonehaven Town Partnership is singled out, and that this is being done in some way to protect the interests of a “handful of shopkeepers.”

If Mr Sutcliffe was to investigate the matter at all he would realize that the recent rejections of supermarket planning applications have been based on Scottish Planning Policy which does not support out of town development unless combined with residential development; as such, his complaint should be to his MSP who is best placed to influence planning policy. It is naïve to regard planning policy as being designed to protect the interests of local business proprietors.

The purpose of planning policy here is about taking a long-term view on the sustainability of the town centre, something that is of value to residents and visitors alike. If Mr Sutcliffe was to read the retail impact assessments that are available for all the recent planning decisions in relation to supermarkets he would find that the loss of trade to the town centre (this does not include the Co-op store) that an out of town large supermarket would cause is estimated at £1.5-2 million a year. Of course some or even many may say that the demand for such a supermarket outweighs this consideration and the level of retail leakage, that is to say spend by local people in supermarkets in Portlethen, Aberdeen and elsewhere instead of in Stonehaven (approx. 70%), creates sustainability issues that trump any concerns about the town centre. But there is a debate to be had on whether we should accept the risk of a town centre with only fast food outlets, bookmakers, and spectacle shops, in return for a large out of town supermarket which in itself is unlikely to be accessible without using the car and at a time when patterns of shopping are moving away from large supermarkets to discounters and online.

Yours etc

Jerry Sternberg

via email

Wanting the best for the town

Sir- May I remind Mr Sutcliffe that the recent exchange on the subject of supermarkets began with a letter not from me but from Mrs Bruce in which she castigated local councillors for inaction, demanded that they provide a supermarket “now,” recommended the Loop Road site and said that claims that an edge of town development would be detrimental to the town centre were opinion and not based on facts.

I responded by pointing out that far from dithering or fudging, our councillors had been diligent in their approach to this complex issue and drew Mrs Bruce’s attention to Scottish Government planning policy which puts town centres first and requires councils to adopt a sequential town centre first approach.

I also cited an economic critique commissioned by STP of identified sites in and around the town for possible supermarket development, and retail impact analysis reports produced by developers and Aberdeenshire Council as evidence that facts and figures indicating that town centres are at risk from such developments do exist.

She replied by claiming that the town centres of Inverurie, Montrose and Banchory invalidated my case. My response to her was that the first two had large supermarkets very close to the town centre and therefore supported the view that the closer the development is to the centre the lower the risk, and that Banchory was showing signs that its town centre was being adversely affected by recent edge of settlement retail developments. At this point Mr Sutcliffe entered the argument in support of Mrs Bruce’s position.

At no time in these exchanges did I ever claim to be speaking for anyone other than myself on this matter, yet both Mrs Bruce and Mr Sutcliffe have demanded I produce evidence of the democratic legitimacy of my point of view, a condition they do not apply to themselves. Having said that, Mr Sutcliffe appears to claim that he represents thousands of residents but gives no indication as to how he knows this for a fact or how he arrived at this figure.

Mr Sutcliffe goes further, suggesting that I have an “agenda”, no doubt tapping the side of his nose with an out stretched index finger as he typed the word. My “agenda” is the same as his and Mrs Bruce’s: the best possible future for Stonehaven. Where we differ is that I think an edge of/out of town retail development poses a significant risk to the vitality and vibrancy of the town centre and they don’t. I have attempted to put forward a convincing case supported by evidence and, in my opinion, they have struggled to counter it.

Ultimately this matter will be resolved one way or the other by Aberdeenshire councillors who will, fortunately, take more than one relevant factor into account in deciding what is in the best long term interests of all involved.

Yours etc.,

Douglas Samways

address supplied

Town fighting - Hampering harmony?

Sir - When I pick up my Leader each week I am becoming more and more saddened to see the increasing ‘numerous’ divisions there are developing among the folk of Stonehaven, on virtually every issue there is for the community to discuss, debate or have opinions on.

Of course there will be differing views on many issues in a town of Stonehaven’s size, but it is getting extremely alarming to read the continual lengthy letters criticising and ‘having a go’ at others, full of personal attack, mud-slinging, name-calling, and then see equally as many unpleasant and divisive comments on social media. What is really behind all this vitriol from so many different quarters?

Although I’ve lived eight miles away in Maryculter/Netherley for almost 31 years and in Portlethen for seven years before that, I have always regarded Stonehaven as my favourite town of choice for shopping, activities and socialising during these almost 40 years, despite having worked in Portlethen - which is actually closer to me - for 11 years of that time. I am in Stonehaven two or three times a week and truly appreciate and supported everything which goes on in the town.

My family will confirm I call Stonehaven ‘my favourite place in the world’ and it is so upsetting to be aware there are these dreadfully concerning undercurrents of serious disquiet hampering harmony in the town.

What must the numerous incomers to the Stonehaven area think of all this hostility, division and ill-feeling at a time when there is a greater need than ever for communities to band together for the benefit of all?

So many in the community are making huge efforts, and doing great work, but as we begin 2015 can someone please gather everyone who cares about the town together, and endevour to make sure they all put their differences behind them once and for all, and begin singing from the same song sheet.....before Stonehaven suffers irreversibly from all this horrendously unpleasant and quite ugly in-town fighting.

Yours etc,.

Judi Martin

via email