A Banff business owner is arguing that controversial plans for a new Morrisons to replace a playing field could revitalise the “dying” town centre.
Scores of people have backed an online campaign aimed at stopping the supermarket giant from paving over Canal Park to create the new shop.
They say the proposal would eradicate a key part of the town’s heritage, which dates back to 1907, while leaving several football clubs homeless and facing collapse.
But now a counter group, led by owner of the Good Sleep Company furniture shop Scott Birnie, have decided to make their voices heard.
They claim that the vast majority of locals want the new supermarket – and are content to lose Canal Park to make way for it.
‘Banff needs investment’
Scott told us that most of the 8,000 people in and around Banff and Macduff are clamouring for their first big supermarket.
He said: “I appreciate the loss of the football ground is an emotive subject to some people, but I’ve encountered no shortage of people in Banff in favour of the plans.
“People opposing the proposals are missing the point that there is no alternative piece of land for this in the town.
“Meanwhile, there are alternative places that the clubs can play football.
“And it’s possible that there could be negotiations about reduced rates for teams forced to find a new pitch.”
Scott added: “Banff needs investment.
“As someone who operates a business in the town, it concerns me that a campaign group shouting loud enough could prevent that.
“It sends the message that we are this backwater that don’t want big firms coming and ruining what we have.
“If we lose this, other big names will look at the area and think ‘what’s the point?'”
The new store would bring an estimated 175 jobs to the area, and it is understood the land would be sold for more than £1 million.
“That money would be ring-fenced to be spent in this area and that will be far better for the community than Canal Park”, Scott said.
“At the moment, on a Saturday people go elsewhere to do their weekly shopping in Elgin or Fraserburgh.
“Many would be happy to stay if there was a Morrisons here, then come into town to boost the local economy.”
Magician backs Morrisons
Dean Spruce and his partner Victoria McCann, a pair of local magicians, agree that the majority of the town wants a new supermarket.
Dean said: “The anti-Morrisons brigade are a tiny percentage of the town, though they make a lot of noise.
“It would be a huge loss if we didn’t get a supermarket, the land is supposed to be for what is in the best interests of Banff and Macduff.
“It’s regeneration, it’s money into the town, it’s something new.”
Victoria added: “People are really really excited about this.
“There is no one big employer in the area and this would provide more than 150 jobs, as well as giving people a reason to come to Banff.
“Banff and Macduff are dying little towns.”
Another local, Deanna Schoenecker, added: “It will save me money from having to go to Buckie, Elgin, Fraserburgh, Aberdeen or Inverurie to get my main grocery shop.”
Antique shop owner Rachel Kennedy is one of the leading figures behind the Save Our Canal Park campaign, which has more than 950 members on Facebook.
Last week, she told us: “We understand how a spot just off the main road with such visibility is attractive to a supermarket, and there is nothing similar in the area.
“But I don’t think it is right to sell this land, which is so popular with locals.”
Today, the shopkeeper stressed that greater shopping variety would soon be coming to the area in the form of an Aldi at Macduff.
She added: “To argue pro-Morrisons is, in our view, dividing the community when we should be working together.”
And Banff Rovers manager Ray Skinner told of his desire to one day see his son turn out for the side on Canal Park – the same pitch both he and his dad played on for the club.
Aberdeenshire Council has encouraged people to have their say by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by joining an online consultation.
Morrisons was approached for comment.