Council committee votes for Aldi development despite hundreds of objections
No retail assessment and housing need ignored, says city MSP
Dennis and Linda say they’re up for the challenge as giant discounter wins planning go-ahead for Oxgangs store
EDINBURGH Premier retailers Dennis and Linda Williams have said they are “disappointed but not despondent” after losing their battle to keep a new Aldi from opening on their doorstep.
Members of Edinburgh City Council’s planning committee last month voted overwhelmingly in favour of a new development on a site just yards from the couple’s Broadway Convenience store in Oxgangs.
The result follows a year-long campaign – supported by their MSP, community members and the SGF – to block the plan on the grounds that it would harm local retailers, bring traffic congestion and cause access problems for disabled people.
The couple also argued that the land, previously occupied by a church and community centre, would be better used for much-needed affordable housing.
Despite hundreds of objections being submitted, committee members chose to push through the proposals without a hearing.
Dennis and Linda told Scottish Grocer they now plan to write to the council to record their concern and distress at the “undemocratic” way in which the case was handled.
Linda said: “They didn’t really scrutinise it in any way, shape or form. It’s very disappointing.
“Due to the volume of really very valid objections there should have been a hearing at the very least.”
The couple are now focusing on preparing their own business for the arrival of Aldi.
Linda said: “We’re not despondent. There are areas where we know we beat Aldi hands down and we’ll just have to capitalise on those and look at opportunities for other things they don’t do.”
SGF supported the couple in their fight and public affairs manager John Lee said he was shocked by the planning committee’s decision.
“I don’t think they took any account of the impact this development will have on existing retail businesses and I think they totally ignored the need for affordable housing in the area,” he said.
“We are realising how skewed towards developers the planning process is. I think councils do buy into the idea of new jobs far too easily. They don’t look at it robustly enough.
“But I think it’s clear from the very impressive campaign Dennis and Linda organised that there is a huge amount of community support for Broadway Premier and they will survive and thrive.”
Local MSP Gordon MacDonald was among those who objected to the plan. Following the decision, he said he was disappointed councillors had decided not to call for a retail impact assessment and had ignored local concerns about social housing.
“Nearly 75% of the representations received were against the development, so what argument can the council put forward for approving it?” he said.
“Is it about creating jobs? Because in my view these jobs will just be off-set by what’s lost elsewhere.
“I think that’s an important aspect that we do need to get across to planning departments. When is it really job creation and when is it job displacement?”
Edinburgh City Council insisted it was satisfied the proposed development will not adversely effect the vitality and viability of the nearby shopping centre.
Councillor Ian Perry, convener of the planning committee, said: “The committee agreed that it was on the edge of the shopping centre and as such it complied with the Edinburgh City Local Plan.”
A spokesperson for Aldi commented: “We look forward to opening in Oxgangs and to the benefits this will bring to the surrounding area.
“Meanwhile, Aldi is grateful for the support received from the local community.”