Major businesses based in Inverness city centre have objected to plans to expand two out of town retail parks.
Inverness Bid and the owners of the Eastgate Shopping Centre – the Eastgate Unit Trust – have both spoken out against plans to turn a large vacant shop at Inverness Shopping Park into three restaurants.
And the trust has also objected to proposals to extend Inshes Retail Park by adding a drive-through restaurant and two large shops.
It has warned that out of town expansion could “severely jeopardise” plans to expand the Eastgate Centre with new shops, restaurants and a cinema.
Mike Smith, manager of Bid, warned against the “precedent” of allowing restaurants to take over retail units out of town, arguing that it could lead to the displacement of jobs.
Hercules Unit Trust, which owns the Inverness Retail Park, yesterday said that Frankie and Benny’s, Nando’s and TGI Friday’s would move into the empty Comet shop if permission was granted.
They say that 180 jobs could be created by the move – with developers at Inshes promising approximately 140 new jobs if their plans are given permission.
However, on said: “Having given it consideration we feel that a development like this would be detrimental to the city centre.
“We would describe these as destination restaurants. It’s not a like a Costa Coffee where people just nip in for a coffee for a few minutes, they are sold and marketed as destinations in their own right.
“Business in the city centre is all about footfall and we are concerned that this could create displacement of that.”
In their letter of objection to the Inshes Retail Park plans, agents CBRE acting on behalf of the Eastgate Centre, say that Highland Council should consider the overall impact of plans on the city centre.
Inverness Estates, who have been previously been refused permission for creating restaurant space at Inverness Shopping Park, has also objected to the plans.
Phil Goodman, manager at Inverness Shopping Park’s Centre Manager, said: “These plans including three new restaurants; Frankie and Benny’s, Nando’s and TGI Friday’s, demonstrate our commitment to a continued investment in the park, to ensure that spending time here is an even better experience for our shoppers and visitors to the cinema.
“The idea is that these popular restaurants, which are located at many other similar shopping parks, will offer Inverness Shopping Park’s customers a greater choice of dining options as part of their visit to the park.”