MAJOR doubts hang over plans by Waitrose to create a new store in Milngavie.
The Herald can reveal that planners want to bin the bid – a move that could jeopardise hundreds of jobs.
In a report which will go before a meeting of the East Dunbartonshire Council Planning Board next Wednesday (April 24), officials recommend refusing Waitrose’s application to build a new store on land owned by West rugby club.
West and Waitrose say the move, which would see Waitrose open in 2014, will create 180 “high quaility jobs” and would see the club getting a new all-weather pitch, as well as allowing them to stay at their historic home.
However, it is understood planners claim the proposals would be contrary to the area’s local planning framework and would contravene retail policy.
The decision will now be in the hands of councillors on the night.
Waitrose say they have “overwhelming” public support - pointing to the 110 letters of support the application received, against nine objections, and they plan to put a “strong case” to councillors.
Town Centre Securities (TCS), developers of the project, West and Waitrose will point out that 87 per cent of the 1,241 people who responded to a community consultation last year said they were positive/very positive about the proposals. They will highlight research showing that Waitrose stores, because of their ‘up-market’ nature, pull shoppers in from a wide area – benefiting local businesses.
Crucial to their case will be an independent report from DTZ into the complicated planning background of the Burnbrae, Kilmardinny and Auchenhowie areas.
The background to any refusal could be housebuilder Cala’s plans to develop the ‘Kilmardinny Strip’ between Milngavie and Bearsden – and how cash is found to pay for a new Allander Leisure centre, the building of which is pivotal to Cala’s plans going ahead.
Cala initially wanted to develop West’s land, but a deal between the club and the house builders lapsed.
Waitrose and West then went into partnership. However, a deal struck by the council and Cala means that funding Cala is obliged to find for a new sports centre is linked to how much land they get to develop.
If they don’t get the West land there are fears that they will provide less cash for a new Allander - leaving cash strapped East Dunbartonshire Council to find millions more.
The DTZ report shows that by not relocating West to Auchenhowie, which was originally planned, Cala could actually save around £5.8million. Also, the report states that the Waitrose development would take just six per cent of developable land – leaving the rest, potentially, to Cala.
It is understood that Cala has not objected to Waitrose’s planning application.
David Donkin of TCS said: “We will present a strong case to councillors to approve our proposal, which enjoys strong support from local people who see the benefits that a new Waitrose will bring to the area and recognise the certainty that our proposal will deliver for the community and for West of Scotland FC.
“There have been years of delay and uncertainty over the West ground at Burnbrae and the future of the Allander, with numerous different schemes being put forward – but still nothing has been delivered for Milngavie and there are no guarantees that it ever will be.
“If councillors grant us planning permission, we can offer certainty that we will deliver the investment required to build a new Waitrose bringing 180 new jobs and new facilities for a much-loved and valued local rugby club.”
West President John Cameron said: “We hope that supporters will come along to the hearing and tell councillors why they welcome this high quality development that will benefit the community as well as the club, guaranteeing our long term future at Burnbrae.”
Martin Gorman, senior development surveyor for Waitrose, said: “A new Waitrose store will provide a wider choice of quality food shopping for people in East Dunbartonshire and attract new shoppers, which can only be of benefit to Milngavie. A vibrant town centre benefits everyone –ourselves, the town centre retailers and the local residents.”
East Dunbartonshire Council declined to comment.