A Moray firm’s £3.5million expansion in the outskirts of Elgin has received the backing of planners – despite fears it could lead to job losses in the town centre.
Councillors have been recommended to give the green light to Grampian Furnishers who are seeking to move from their current Lossiemouth site to a showroom about three times the size.
But the proposed location, next to the A96 Aberdeen to Inverness road, is against existing planning rules which bar retail developments at the land near the Reiket Lane roundabout.
Objections have been lodged by Elgin’s business improvement district (BID) as well as furniture chain Anderson and England on Lossie Wynd, highlighting concerns that it could increase pressures on shops in the centre of town and set a precedent for further retail development at Linkwood.
A report for the planning committee summarising opponents’ worries said: “There are already significant pressures on town centre retailers as evidenced by the current vacancy rate.
“This development will increase these pressures, leading to further trade displacement and result in job losses.
“The application has failed to demonstrate there will be no adverse impact on the vitality and viability of the town centre.”
Grampian Furnishers managing director Royce Clark said he welcomed the recommendation to approve, and added that he hopes councillors will use their “common sense” when they meet next month.
They will debate on October 4 whether the project can be considered as an exemption to policy .
He said: “This is by no means the final step, we’ve still got to convince the planning committee of the merits, but it’s great that we have council planners on side to support our application.
“It’s great that the council planners have seen that this will be a good move for the local economy of Moray.
“I’ve said it all along, I hope that common sense prevails, and as it stands it appears that common sense has prevailed as far as the planners are concerned, so let’s hope that continues into the meeting and the vote goes the same way.
“We’ve seen a lot of support online, a petition in favour has been backed by more than 2,500 people, so it appears we have the support of the majority – and let’s hope the majority wins.”
Elgin Community Council had previously said that the showroom and cafe should be considered as a “one-off”, and should not be allowed to set a precedent for out-of-town sites.
A statement from the community council said: “Scottish planning policy states that “out-of-centre” locations should only be considered for uses which generate significant footfall provided it has been proven that it cannot reasonably be altered to be accommodated at a sequentially preferable location, and there will be no significant adverse effect on the vitality and viability of existing town centres.
“However, we believe this application will be popular with the public and that popularity is influenced by the company’s reputation in the area.
“Furthermore, the applicant’s choice to buy the site reinforces their commitment to making it a success.”