PLANNING bosses have been accused of “blowing 200 jobs to keep city traders happy” by refusing a major retail development.
A new Debenhams had been proposed at the out-of-town Fort Kinnaird shopping complex but was rejected by the city planning committee.
We told at the weekend how the job-boosting plan was to be axed – because planners feared the new store would harm city centre trade as well as Ocean Terminal.
Smaller city centre businesses have welcomed the decision, thought to be a new direction for city planners who have previously upheld satellite retail developments.
But Craigmillar Community Council secretary Terry Tweed said it was “short-sighted” to deny something that would have brought jobs and shoppers to the area. He said: “I’m disgusted by the decision but not surprised. I think it’s totally ridiculous and it was all to safeguard the white elephant that is Ocean Terminal.
“There are 3.5 million visitors a year to Edinburgh and 3.5 million of those will go to Princes Street. They won’t go to Fort Kinnaird, so I don’t see why the city centre even comes into it. Debenhams said it would keep all of its stores so why shouldn’t a retailer be able to choose where it wants another store?”
Councillor Ian Perry, convener of the planning committee, said it had caused a “heated debate”, with opinion split on the development.
The application was defeated by nine votes to four, with three Leith councillors opposing the application. Mr Perry said: “The argument was ‘will this really threaten the city centre and other retail centres?’ and some people disagreed with the recommendations that it would.”
He added: “The key issue is the size and trying to get a balance between the two types of centres. We are very conscious of the need to protect retail in the city centre and not to have out-of town-centres created that compete directly with Princes Street.”
Debenhams – which has stores in Princes Street and Ocean Terminal – signed a lease on the 5612 square metre outlet ahead of planners recommending the bid be rejected.
It had been scheduled to open next year, and Maureen Child, councillor for Portobello/Craigmillar – who voted to allow the store – said it was a “sledgehammer blow” for the area. She said: “I am really disappointed as I think Debenhams made a really good case.”
Debenhams was contacted but no-one was available to comment.