A MAJOR supermarket is set to replace First Bus operations at its Dalkeith depot after the travel firm announced it would quit the base amid huge cutbacks.
High-level talks have taken place between the unnamed retailer and site owners Forrest Development in a move that could provide a massive jobs boon for the Midlothian town.
The News reported on Monday how First Bus planned to axe hundreds of jobs and close its Dalkeith station after losing around £5 million over three years on underperforming routes in the Lothians.
Around 20 bus links are to be scrapped leaving several rural villages marooned from the public transport network.
Today, bosses at the development firm said the number of supermarket jobs created could eclipse the anticipated loss of 200 positions when the bus company withdrew.
Donald Stewart, managing director of Forrest Development, said: “The news came as a shock to us because First Bus are our tenants but it’s bad news for the people affected. The good news is that we will be progressing our supermarket proposal with haste and we would hope through comprehensive development of this site we could create more than the amount of jobs being lost through First. We will be progressing that work as soon as possible and will have discussions with Midlothian Council.”
Mr Stewart said a chain had already shown interest in the depot – a prime retail site on Eskbank Road, with prior planning consent for a 45,000sq ft store – which would “accommodate a sizeable supermarket”.
“We do have interest from a supermarket but I wouldn’t want to be drawn on the details of that at this moment,” he said. “Waiting to get vacant possession of the site has been a big stumbling block to progress our proposals. I am most disappointed that up to 200 jobs are set to go but hopefully we can create something at that site that will provide jobs and be an asset to Dalkeith town centre.”
In 2007, plans were unveiled for a £20m investment to transform the Dalkeith station into a Sainsbury’s supermarket incorporating a bar, restaurant and health and fitness centre.
A source today said discussions between Sainsbury’s and Forrest Development had “ended some time ago” and that there was “no prospect of that going forward”.
A spokesperson for Dalkeith Community Council said: “The community council are always looking to bring facilities into the town and have fought for a long time to retain shopping in Dalkeith. We need a supermarket in a central area of the town – and it’s long overdue. I think the idea would be that [a supermarket] would generate growth and attract business.”