Anger at bid to double size Straiton retail park

The Straiton expansion plans have angered the city council. Pic: Phil Wilkinson
The Straiton expansion plans have angered the city council. Pic: Phil Wilkinson
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A BID to double the size of the Straiton retail park and create a new shopping village next to Hillend is being objected to by the city council.

The Midlothian Council vision has run into opposition at the City Chambers over fears of the impact on city centre traders and existing shopping centres.

A report has been produced by city council planners raising serious concerns about the plans for Straiton and Hillend, despite the council approving a new multi-screen cinema complex at Fort Kinnaird retail park in March.

Fears the expansion would harm the prospects of other shopping centres such as Ocean Terminal in Leith, the Gyle, Hermiston Gait and the city centre itself were debated at the time.

Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce committee member Ewan Thomson said today new or expanded out-of-town retail parks were the last thing the city’s existing retailers needed.

He said: “It sounds like people are desperate to create opportunities, but they’re not really thinking them out. I find it unbelievable that at a time when the high street is acknowledged to be shrinking in its appeal and also the amount of commercial value that’s spent on the high street is declining, that we’re talking about 
building more retail.

“It’s all very well saying that we’ll drop a shopping centre in Hillend, but how are people going to get to it?”

Mr Thomson added: “Edinburgh and Midlothian need to get their heads together and decide what they want to do because they’re in opposing camps at the minute. Unless there’s a regional strategy on shopping, you’re always going to get one trying to pull rank on the other.”

A major retail study commissioned by Midlothian Council to shape its local development plan has estimated up to an extra 8700sq m of floorspace for food and drink stores is needed by 2021.

The findings also suggest up to a further 53,000sq m 
should be dedicated to new retail space for bulky goods, clothing and similar outlets. Major retailers Argos, Next, Homebase and Halfords already have stores at Straiton. Household goods giant Ikea also has an outlet less than a mile away.

Andy Neal, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, said: “I can imagine if you’re from Midlothian and you don’t have a city centre, it probably makes sense. But Edinburgh’s policy is pretty clear on this – that investment in out-of-town shopping centres was from a former time and now the focus is on making sure we’ve got absolutely the best, most vibrant city centre we can create.”

Midlothian head of planning Councillor Owen Thompson said all responses to the authority’s LDP would be analysed. “The local development plan is about the future of Midlothian,” he stressed.

The closing date for 
comments is August 31.