The Co-op is weighing up its next move after planners turned down a fresh bid to build a new supermarket in Fortrose.
The company wants to relocate its existing High Street premises, which it says are not fit for purpose, to a site on the edge of the village.
It says the move is needed to serve the expanding villages of Fortrose and Rosemarkie and other Black Isle communities.
But Highland Council, which knocked back earlier plans for a new store, has again refused planning permission.
A spokesperson for the Co-op, said: “We are disappointed with the outcome, and we will assess the options available.”
Local population has increased
The 6,000 sq ft convenience store was earmarked for a site on the main road to Rosemarkie at the junction with Ness Road.
The Co-op, which was a joint applicant with development firm Northquest, argued the existing 3,770 sq ft shop is too small and no other town centre sites are available.
It stated the populations of Fortrose and Rosemarkie have increased with 179 new houses being approved since 2011.
A new, bigger store will stop ‘leakage’ of business outside the Black Isle, it said.
Relocating would also ease pressure on current traffic and parking in the High Street.
In addition, it would free up the town centre site for a planned affordable housing development.
A planning statement says if shops are not updated to meet changing circumstances customers may go elsewhere, harming other businesses.
“Unless the local supermarket is attractive to shoppers and meets their expectations (for example in terms of range of goods), shoppers may choose to travel further afield in order to undertake their shopping.
“This could then have the effect of undermining the existing local facilities, leading to adverse impact on the remaining shops and services within the community.”
The developers said they changed the boundaries of the previous, larger site and moved the location of the proposed store.
Villages’ distinct identities
However, the council said the proposal is against local plans to protect and maintain the distinct identities of Fortrose and Rosemarkie.
“The siting of the development on the proposed site would result in an encroachment and erosion of the green wedge which clearly serves to provide a significant visual and physical break between the two villages.”
It said the site layout and design would have a “significant detrimental impact” on the landscape and visual character of the area and involve unplanned development on prime agricultural land.
Also, the edge of town development would likely affect the vitality and viability of Fortrose town centre, it said.
In 2018, Fortrose and Rosemarkie Community Council said plans to move the Co-op from the village centre would threaten the viability of the High Street.
The new proposal attracted seven objections and one letter of support.
David Jefferson, also from Rosemarkie, said: “The High Street is the centre of Fortrose, and having the Cooperative outside this would significantly reduce the use of, and have a significant impact on our highly valued village shops.
“I have seen the impact elsewhere when shops such as the butchers, bakery, etc. all slowly close as the big retail outlet fills their shelves with items purchased usually on the High Street.
“This would also have an effect on the local convenience stores across the Black Isle.”
Planned move ‘could set a precedent’
Another Rosemarkie resident, Anne Phillips, said the proposal is against the local plan seeking to preserve the green space between the villages and protect the centre of Fortrose.
Jane Barker, from Fortrose, said prime agricultural land should not be used for retail development.
And Tim Blackie, from Fortrose, said it could lead set a precedent for further development which will lead to “coalescence” of Fortrose and Rosemarkie.
But Calum Boyden, from Rosemarkie, said the current store is too small and needs to cater for an ever-growing population.