Pricing guns have been drawn over plans for a new discount supermarket in a north-east town.
Co-op bosses are urging Aberdeenshire Council to refuse Aldi’s bid to create a new shop in Macduff.
The German chain lodged highly anticipated plans for the store at the start of November.
And since then more than 100 residents have written to the local authority in support, saying the Aldi is desperately needed.
But the Co-op is calling for the council to scrap the proposal – saying it could destroy trade in nearby Banff, where it has a shop.
Co-op chiefs have contracted the Glasgow-based North Planning and Development consultancy to argue the case on their behalf.
Why is the Co-op objecting to Macduff Aldi?
North Planning and Development director, Graeme Laing, is arguing that the proposed shop will “cause significant harm” to Banff town centre.
He also claims that there is a “preferable site” available in the form of Banff’s Canal Park – even though the council is attempting to sell the land to Morrison’s.
And the Co-op reckons that, before deciding to set up shop in Macduff, Aldi should have “attempted to acquire” the grounds.
Co-op says Macduff Aldi claims are misleading
North Planning and Development is questioning Aldi’s estimates on how the store will impact the centres of Banff and Macduff.
The firm says it has “a number of concerns” with the findings, accusing Aldi of “overstating” the number of other shops in the area by working off a 20-mile radius.
Mr Laing says Aldi is therefore “masking the true impact” its new venue could have.
Fears over loss of trade at other shops
He says it is “reasonable to expect that at least 30-40% of its trade” will be taken from other shops in the immediate vicinity, particularly the Co-op and Tesco in Banff town centre.
“These stores lie less than two miles from the application site and it is entirely logical to conclude that the principal impacts of the proposed development will fall on these
town centre stores,” he adds.
Mr Laing also says the proposed shop is too big for the “scale of the settlement”, at 1,881 square metres.
His letter states: “It should be noted that the proposed retail floorspace is greater than all of the convenience floorspace in Macduff town centre, and equates to more than 50% of the total convenience retail floorspace within Banff town centre.”
And the planning guru claims that the plan goes against the council’s own “town centre first” policies aimed at staving off decline in the heart of communities.
Could people power prove pivotal?
In November, Aldi issued a rallying cry for locals to help get the multi-million-pound Duff Street store up and running.
Bosses say it will create 35 local jobs in the shop, along with more during the construction phase.
About 140 people have since written to Aberdeenshire Council to weigh in on the plans – with the majority in favour.
Macduff woman Susan Quinn said: “A decent affordable supermarket in the area will benefit the local economy, kickstart a much needed regeneration, boost the morale within the community and save families having to travel 40+ for a large shop.”
‘The town will thrive’
Fiona Cook added: “I won’t have to travel so far or have to pay to have my shopping delivered when Aldi opens here as it will provide the choice and value that I want.”
Linda Innes said: “So many shops have closed over the years. This would be good for Macduff and would save having to go out of town for shopping.”
Rachel Brown added: “With an Aldi presence in Macduff other commercial businesses will follow.
“Locals will support them, people will come, and the town will thrive.“
Many travel miles for groceries
Andrew Priest, from Banff, is one of many people who travel to the likes of Elgin, Inverurie or Peterhead to do their food shop “as there is so little choice locally”.
He added: “When there they will often browse in other shops, and eat in cafes and restaurants.
“This is taking much needed income away from our local shops, cafes etc.
“Having better options locally will encourage many of us to shop and spend locally, and hopefully bring in people from other areas where they don’t have an Aldi.”
You can no longer comment on the application, but the plans are available to view here.