Councillors have paved the way for an Aberdeenshire town to get its first major supermarket.
Members of the local authority’s Kincardine and Mearns area committed backed proposals for a store on the outskirts of Stonehaven – along with a 50-bedroom hotel and restaurant.
The multimillion-pound development will take shape on the Ury Estate to the north-west of the port if the FM Group’s scheme wins the support of the full Aberdeenshire Council later this year.
Councillors yesterday debated a quartet of applications for supermarkets at Stonehaven – and rejected proposals for the New Mains of Ury, the Mains of Cowie and Mill of Forest.
The area committee had been urged by officials to block all four proposals as they did not comply with the council’s local development plan (LDP).
But they went against council planners’ recommendations to back the Ury Estate application.
The decision was made despite an independent retail assessment commissioned by the council which concluded a supermarket would have a knock-on impact on Stonehaven’s town centre.
Last night, Jonathon Milne, director of the FM Group, said: “We are thrilled that our retail and hotel development, adjacent to our affordable housing, has been given a ringing endorsement from the area committee today.
“Councillors have weighed-up all the options and have recognised the overall benefits of our proposals as part of the planned expansion of Stonehaven.
“This is the last piece in the jigsaw for the transformation of Ury Estate in a planned and sustained way which provides jobs, opportunities and homes within a highly desirable location that is easy to access for everyone in Stonehaven and beyond.”
Vice-chairman of the committee, Peter Bellarby, said he was not convinced about the “adverse effects” on Stonehaven town centre from two of the applications.
He added: “I was supportive of both of the Ury Estate and New Mains of Ury applications. The one for the Ury Estate was with a hotel and I thought the hotel itself was really a significant factor in it.
“Any effect of people being taken away to go to the supermarket from the town centre would be countered from people going the other way and wanting to go from it, towards the town and exploring its attractions.
“There has been a very large groundswell of opinion in Stonehaven that there needs to be a supermarket there and I agree with that.”
The Stonehaven and District councillor had initially moved to support the New Mains of Ury application and was left “disappointed” when it was rejected on a vote 8-3.
The Sluie Estate Trust’s plans for the New Mains of Ury were for a supermarket and petrol station.
The application by Barratt North Scotland and Drum Development Co for Mill of Forest was also for 500 homes, employment and retail land and a bridge across the A90 Aberdeen-Dundee road.
The Mains of Cowie development was for up to 250 homes, community facilities, a primary school, a petrol station and the supermarket.
Currently Stonehaven is served by three modest Co-ops, the largest of which is in David Street.
The FM Group is also behind plans for the £80million Jack Nicklaus Championship Golf Course at the Ury Estate – which will be determined by Aberdeenshire Council tomorrow.
Phil Mills-Bishop of the Stonehaven and District Community Council said he and the group were “delighted” by the councillors’ decision.
He added: “I really didn’t think that they would make a decision. I just couldn’t believe it.
“I have been critical at times of our elected members. I think this time they showed a lot of courage. This time, they stood up for Stonehaven.
“And it means the Co-op is now going to have a major competitor on its doorstep.”
Fife Hyland, of Drum Property Group, said: “We fully believe the proposals for Mill of Forest provide an opportunity for Stonehaven to take advantage of its unique positioning and potential for growth, crucially delivering a hotel, jobs as well as answering the long standing retail question.”
A final decision on all four supermarket plans will be made at the full council meeting on June 30.