Council moves to clarify issue of future supermarket provision in Stonehaven

Aberdeenshire Council is seeking to clarify local understanding of recent decisions taken by councillors in relation to the possible provision of a supermarket in Stonehaven.

The local authority have said that a postcard circulated by Stonehaven Town Partnership (STP) suggests the council has re-opened consultation on the issue, which they say is not the case.

Planners are keen to let local people know the facts surrounding decisions made by the Kincardine and Mearns (KMAC) and Infrastructure Services Committees (ISC).

Both committees recently discussed the emerging Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan 2017, including issues raised during the consultation process about supermarket shopping in Stonehaven.

Planning Policy team leader, Piers Blaxter, said: “This issue has a long history, and Aberdeenshire Council acknowledges there is a deficit in convenience shopping provision in the town.

“In terms of the local retail hierarchy a town the size of Stonehaven could be expected to host a supermarket.

“This situation has persisted for some years and resulted in the allocation of a site at Spurryhillock being identified for such a use in the last Local Development Plan.

“We took the opportunity to raise supermarket shopping as a “main issue” in our most recent consultation on the emerging Local Development Plan, and this topic featured prominently in a public meeting held in Stonehaven in November 2013.”

There were more than 30 formal responses to the consultation, which closed at the end of January of this year, on this issue alone.

A statement released by Aberdeenshire Council said: “A wide range of views were expressed, as detailed in the “Issues and Actions Paper” (No.160 “Stonehaven”) presented to councillors in May 2014.

“This paper noted the consensus that a badly-sited proposal would do significant damage to the town centre and that none of the sites suggested received unanimous support.

“In order to move the issue forward, officers made a recommendation to KMAC that the town’s Recreation Grounds should be considered for a retail allocation, and this matter was discussed at a meeting in May.

“The committee did not agree with the recommendation, on the basis that the “sense of place” associated with the seafront would be compromised, preferring to recommend a different site at Mains of Cowie be included in the plan.

“However, at a meeting of the Infrastructure Services Committee in July, at which the views of Local Area Committees were to be confirmed, it was argued any out of centre site would do significant harm to the town centre, the Recreation Grounds makes a significant contribution to the character of the town, and that the existing position of supporting retailing in Stonehaven through the promotion of the Spurryhillock site should persist.

“As such, this is the current view of Aberdeenshire Council; a decision taken in an open, transparent and democratic manner following consultation.

“The process followed to reach this point is as set out in the Development Plan Scheme 2014. Following consultation and the decisions taken by councillors, officers are now working up the text of the emerging plan for presentation to councillors in November 2014.

“While this will provide an opportunity for members to re-visit the content of the plan, officers are not conducting any further consultations to inform this.

“Any additional information in relation to the content would have to be given directly to members by those concerned.”

When the Proposed Plan is published, there will be further opportunity for private views to be expressed.

In light of unresolved objections to the Proposed Plan, it is likely the issue of the allocation of land in Stonehaven for a supermarket will be the subject of public examination by Scottish Ministers.

If Aberdeenshire Council subsequently approves the Proposed Plan, it will become the planning blueprint for the area for the period 2017- 2021.

Mr Blaxter added: “It is incorrect to say that we have decided to ‘re-examine’ the decision to back an edge-of–Stonehaven bid for retail and commercial development.

“We have not agreed to undertake any further consultation and are content that we have a clear instruction from ISC as to the content of the plan on this matter.

“We are happy to support STP in its aspirations to inform future debates and in particular any representation made by those with an interest in supermarket shopping in Stonehaven to the content of the Proposed Plan when it is published.”