A Banff businessman is issuing a last ditch plea for councillors to pave the way for a new Morrisons in the town.
Scott Birnie is speaking out ahead of the Banff and Buchan area committee meeting on Tuesday, where members will discuss plans to sell off Canal Park to the supermarket giant.
The proposals have proven divisive, with more than 60% of the respondents to a 10-week public consultation raising objections.
Those keen to preserve the green space are urging decision-makers to “listen to the people” and ensure the scheme goes no further.
But local authority officers are nevertheless advising councillors to set in motion the legal process to offload Canal Park.
Councillors ‘duty-bound’ to do what is best for community
Scott, who owns the Good Sleep Company furniture shop in the town centre, has previously argued that a “silent majority” of locals are in favour of the development.
And he is now calling on the committee not to be swayed by naysayers.
Scott said: “If you speak to the average person on the street, who may not involve themselves with local politics, I believe they would be in favour of a new Morrisons at Canal Park.
“This is land that the council manages on behalf of the community.
“If it’s deemed that selling it is of greater benefit than keeping it, then that’s what the council is duty-bound to do.”
The businessman says his theory is backed up by an unofficial poll Aberdeen Journals carried out this summer.
Our survey found 56.55% of the 550 people who took part were in favour of paving over Canal Park for a Morrisons.
Scott added: “That poll was quite easy and accessible, and it attracted people who might not be engaged with the operations of the council.”
But officers are urging councillors to concentrate on “the issues raised” rather than the “number of people who raised them”.
Much of the debate centres around Canal Park being sited on common good land gifted to the town in 1907.
The Deveronside spot, at the entrance to Banff from Macduff, is used by Banff Rovers among other amateur football sides.
Scott believes the economic benefits of the supermarket should take precedence.
“It will mean people don’t leave Banff to do their supermarket shopping, it will keep them in the town and they will spend money at other premises in the centre,” he said.
Both sides have the same message
Last week, leader of the Save Our Canal Park campaign group Rachel Kennedy appealed for councillors to go against officers’ recommendations.
She said: “Now is the time for our councillors to show leadership and show they are behind the community.”
Scott is calling for elected members to do that too – but by rubber-stamping the plans.
He added: “To echo what has been said by the other side, it comes down to the councillors.
“And they need to think about what’s in the best interests of Banff.”
The council meeting will take place at 9.30am on Tuesday.