Supermarket bosses have been given permission to open a new store in Moray – despite council planners admitting it could hit town centre firms.
Retailer Iceland has earmarked the Elgin Retail Park, which is on the town’s Edgar Road, for one of its larger Food Warehouse branches.
Up to 30 new jobs could be created in the store, which is expected to open between April and June next year.
Yesterday Moray Council approved planning permission to change the rules of the retail park, which is owned by property firm Robertson, to allow food to be sold in the unit.
However, Elgin’s business improvement district attempted to block the plans after becoming increasingly concerned about the amount of similar changes being made.
During yesterday’s meeting of the council’s planning committee, Jim Grant, the authority’s head of direct services, explained there would be a “modest” impact on town centre trade – but stressed it would not be “significant”.
Forres councillor George Alexander bemoaned the lack of options to buy fruit in Elgin town centre and suggested it may soon be time to “take a stand” to stop the High Street being hit further.
He added: “These retail park units would have been built with conditions where there would be no food retail – and here we are making an exception in this case.
“There’s a huge supermarket already on Edgar Road. What concerns me is that I haven’t heard any reason to allow food retail here, other than the owner wants to get a tenant.”
Planning consultants Ryden stressed that competition was causing cash from customers to “leak” to firms in Aberdeen and Inverness – arguing that there would be spin-off benefits for local traders.
Mr Grant explained that council planners had examined units in the town centre and determined there were none suitable for the Iceland store.
Elgin City North councillor Paula Coy said: “This is not the kind of shop where you are just going to go in and buy one piece of fruit – you are going to want to take a car and trolley.
“For me, there has to be flexibility within the rules and it can’t just be black and white.”
Fochabers Lhanbryde councillor Marc Macrae added: “This is the type of application that we should be supporting given the employment potential to the area.”
Councillors unanimously approved the application.
The Press and Journal published a poll online asking if the Iceland store should open at the retail park in Elgin.
A near 1,500 people had their say with 96% voting in favour of the store opening.