Traders and residents vow to fight proposal for Sainsbury’s in Porty

THREAT: There are plans to close Woodwares Mica Hardware and build a Sainsbury's in its place.
THREAT: There are plans to close Woodwares Mica Hardware and build a Sainsbury's in its place.
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ANGRY traders and residents have vowed to object to plans by Sainsbury’s to open a new store on Portobello High Street, over concerns about too many shops selling alcohol.

Sainsbury’s has said it would create around 25 full and part-time jobs with its new “Local” branch after taking over Woodwares Mica Hardware.

But at a meeting last night residents and local businesses said they planned to fight the move, raising concerns about the impact the arrival of the supermarket giant would have on the area.

And it is expected they will object to any application the store makes to sell alcohol, arguing that with ten other outlets on Portobello High Street already stocking booze off-sales it would amount to over-provision.

The meeting in St James Church Hall saw around 60 residents and traders turn out to discuss the proposal by Sainsbury’s which would see them take over the popular Woodwares store.

There were a range of views, with some suggesting the supermarket would bring much needed competition to the area and other suggesting it would be devastating for local traders. Sainsbury’s said they had received encouraging responses from residents after distributing leaflets which highlighted, among other things, the new store’s 7am-11pm opening hours.

Another meeting is expected to be held in the coming weeks to discuss plans to oppose the store, but the most likely suggestion was opposing the alcohol licence, and also looking to oppose any plans to change the frontage of the existing store.

Portobello resident Diana Cairns said: “Most people at the meeting had concerns about the loss of vital services on the High Street and the impact Sainsbury’s would have on independent traders.

“There are fears if Sainsbury’s moves in, many could close down. Concerns were also raised about the over provision of alcohol.”

Plans to open a Sainsbury’s store at the Cowgate were turned down earlier this year on health grounds after it was argued it would lead to an over-provision of off-sales in the area.

Local councillor Maureen Child was among those attending the meeting last night and said people in the area were determined to fight the plans.

“The general consensus was that they want to object to these plans, and they know they will have to find reasonable arguments for that,” she said.

“The over-provision of alcohol is certainly something that will be considered as there are ten other places in the High Street selling alcohol and so there would be an argument that it is over-provision. That is something the council has been looking to take a tough stance on.

“It’s not just the arrival of Sainsbury’s, although many of the traders are concerned about what that might mean for their business.

“It is also about the loss of Woodwares, which people see as a valuable local asset. It has been in the area for along time and it is still valued.

“There was a feeling that this was down to the local people – that they should choose to shop more locally, and to use Woodwares instead of going online or to B&Q, so that if Sainsbury’s pull out of the deal they have a viable business there.”

A Sainsbury’s spokesman said: “We have been encouraged by the response we have had from residents so far.

“We would expect there to be some concerns, but we have had quite a lot of support from local residents after we carried out a leaflet drop.

“This is a High Street investment.

“All we are looking for is for the proposals to be considered on their merits and in line with council and Government policy.”