Aberdeenshire Council appears poised to sell Canal Park to make way for a new Banff Morrisons – despite most locals opposing the move.
Papers going before the Banff and Buchan area committee next week urge elected members to brush aside locals’ concerns and rubber-stamp the lucrative deal.
The document reveals that a public consultation on the contentious issue attracted scores of objections.
The 10-week open forum was closed on June 30, and 62% of the 336 respondents raised concerns.
Despite the majority being against the sale of the common good land, officers are recommending that councillors push ahead with it.
Plans divided the town
The issues raised by objectors included the potential economic impact on other businesses in the town.
They also bemoaned the loss of community land currently used by amateur football sides and the obliteration of a green space.
However, the report going before councillors adds: “Many respondents noted that the proposals would have a positive impact on the local economy by creating employment
Others argued there was a need for the new store, as there isn’t currently a supermarket in the area.
The report states: “Some respondents noted that the proposals would have a positive
impact on regeneration by investing in the local area.”
What’s best for Banff?
Councillors have been told to concentrate on “the issues raised” rather than the “number of people who raised them”.
The report states: “The council must, when dealing with the administration of common land, make decisions which are in the best interests of the residents of the burghs.”
Officers go on to warn that rejecting the plans could risk the regeneration of the town centre.
The dossier states: “If planning permission is refused or if the common good disposal is refused, then the sale will not go ahead, and the regeneration of a key town centre site will not take place.
“Failure to implement the proposed disposal could have a negative impact on the
regeneration proposals for the town centre.”
Campaigners vow to fight on
Antique shop owner Rachel Kennedy has been leading the crusade, and insisted that the matter was far from over.
She said: “It sounds like this is a threat, they are saying if we don’t go along with what the council is proposing then we as a community are going to lose out.
“The money from the sale is this huge juicy carrot they are hanging up in front of us.
“It feels like they’ve already made up their minds, and the consultation was a box-ticking exercise.
“But they are going to have an awful lot of angry people on their hands if they just sweep it forward.”
Rachel and her fellow members have stressed that they would welcome a new Morrisons to Banff – just not if it means losing Canal Park.
She added: “All of us want to see our area thrive and get better, we just don’t think selling off Canal Park for commercial gain is the way to go about it.
“Now is the time for our councillors to show leadership and show they are behind the community.”
Thousands needed to proceed with sale
The report also references an informal poll carried out by Aberdeen Journals.
Our unofficial survey showed that 311 people wanted a new Morrisons at Canal Park, while 239 voted to save the green space.
If members of the committee agree to proceed with the sale, then the next stage will be to spend £15,000 on lawyers to draw up a petition for disposal of the land to go before the Court of Session.
And a consultant will be hired to compile a report on the economic impact of the development, at an estimated cost of £5,000.
The cash is to come from the Banff and Macduff Common Good fund.
Elected members have also been recommended to instruct the council’s head of legal to begin negotiations on the price of the land.