Plans for a long-awaited Asda store in Inverness have finally been approved by Scottish ministers, it emerged yesterday.
More than five years after the supermarket giant first expressed interest in the site at Slackbuie on the south of the city, its outline plans for the store have been agreed.
Last night the decision was greeted with widespread delight by city leaders, many of them keen to see a new supermarket in Inverness to rival Tesco’s dominance.
Government ministers initially approved the outline planning in 2009 but their decision was challenged by Inverness Estates, a consortium of Highland developers concerned about the impact of the scheme on the local transport network.
Michael Gimson, chairman of Lochardil and Drummond Community Council and one of the most vocal supporters of Asda’s plans, said: “I am delighted – it’s a long time overdue.
“The delay was all down to Inverness Estates and, in the meantime, we have seen Tesco tighten its stranglehold on Inverness with the expansion at Inshes and planning consent for Dores Road.
“I don’t know what stage they’re at, whether they’re ready to put in a detailed planning application or not, but hopefully we’ll have an Asda in Inverness by Christmas.”
Inverness Estates appealed to the Court of Session because neither Highland Council nor the government ministers made the road improvements a condition of their approval.
The list of conditions attached to the latest decision does not mention the road network but, in his report, government official Lyndsey Murray suggested that agreements between Asda, the council and Transport Scotland on the issue satisfied ministers.
He said: “Scottish ministers are content that the executed agreements will ensure sufficient mitigation of any impacts to the strategic road network and, by providing for a contribution towards the agreed mitigation scheme at Inshes roundabout, the local roads network.”
Asda has pledged £1.5million towards upgrading the Inshes roundabout and the slip-road off the A9.
A spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government’s outline consent reflects Asda’s agreement with both Highland Council and Transport Scotland on funding arrangements for important transport road infrastructure works in and around the store site.
“Asda has worked tirelessly towards the reissuing of the consent, which comes 19 months from the date of the original decision by the Scottish ministers to approve the application.”
The supermarket’s acting property communications manager, Sarah Mills, added: “We now have support at all levels of government and look forward to bringing our plans to fruition as soon as possible once the additional necessary consents are obtained.”
Inverness south councillor Jim Crawford also welcomed the news, though he voiced concerns that the current economic climate may delay the development, which would include a petrol station and five small retail units.
He said: “I welcome it. I just hope they go ahead and built it.”
Inverness Estates refused to comment.