Plans for a £10million retail park in Fort William that would create 150 jobs and possibly attract Marks &Spencer, are being recommended for refusal.
Developer Morbaine already has permission for a non-food retail park on a five-acre brownfield site on North Road.
But the Widnes-based development company submitted another application to enable it to include food stores as Aldi is keen to move to the site and it yesterday revealed that M&S was considering taking a unit.
Morbaine has now warned that it would have to pull out of the development if permission was refused as Aldi was “the anchor tenant”.
Local people, who supported the application, were disappointed to hear that Highland Council’s area planning manager Allan Todd would be recommending refusal at the south planning applications committee meeting in Inverness on Tuesday.
Mr Todd’s report points out that Tesco already has planning permission for a supermarket on a site at Blar Mhor.
And he says: “Granting a further permission for food retailing outwith the town centre in Fort William, together with the Blar Mhor permission, is likely to detrimentally affect the viability of the town centre.”
He also states that the application does not fit in with the local development plan.
Fort William Community Council chairman Neil Clark said: “I hope councillors will ignore the officer’s recommendation and approve the application.
“The idea that the Blar Mhor site will be developed is just pie in the sky. There is no realistic possibility of that happening in the near future.
“There is nothing wrong with competition. Having an Aldi store would be a major boost to the shopping options in Fort William.”
Morbaine director Alex Brodie said: “Without this permission, which would allow Aldi to be the anchor tenant, the site would be dead We hope the councillors will see beyond the recommendation of the officer, acknowledge the local demand for additional retail options and choose to make the right decision for Fort William and approve our application for a retail park on North Road.”