Saturday, November 29, 2008

No Petrol Station for Tesco

15 November 2008

Stuart Gillespie: The Galloway News

TESCO’S plans to build a petrol station at their Castle Douglas store have been rejected.
The supermarket giants had appealed to the Scottish Government to have their proposals approved after local councillors failed to deal with them within two months.
However, after holding a public inquiry in the town in July, reporter Dilwyn Thomas dismissed the appeal and refused planning permission yesterday due to the negative impact the filling station would have on the landscape.
Tesco have revealed they are considering their options, but the decision has been welcomed by a number of people in the local community.
When Tesco applied for planning permission for their store in 2005 they had included a petrol station in their proposals.
However, this was removed in order for the plans to gain approval.
In September, 2007, they submitted new plans for a petrol station and as Stewartry area committee had not dealt with them inside two months, they appealed to the Scottish Government.
The plans went before January’s committee meeting and were rejected due to the impact they would have on the landscape.
Mr Thomas shared this view in his reasons for refusal, believing that work on an existing mound and the alternative landscaping proposals would have a detrimental impact on the surrounding area.
Mr Thomas wrote: “In principle, a petrol filling station adjacent to a supermarket in an area covered by a mixed use designation would be acceptable.
“The mound significantly contributes to integrating the supermarket development into the area.
“It also provides a reasonably acceptable soft transition from the settlement into the countryside, and has a screening function.
“I am concerned about the replacement of a significant portion of the mound by hard standing.
It would materially reduce the amount of landscaping at an important location in the supermarket site and at the edge of the settlement.
“I consider that any proposal for a petrol filling station at this location should be based on more substantial landscaping proposals, particularly along the northern boundary.
“While I have no doubt that the area can accommodate change, I am not persuaded that the impact of the development can be properly categorised as either neutral or low beneficial in these views.
“Indeed...I consider that they would be likely to have a significant and materially detrimental impact on the area in general.”
Another issue that had been raised at the inquiry was the possible impact on Castle Douglas town centre and the surrounding area.
While Mr Thomas dismissed these concerns, he did acknowledge that part of the national planning guidelines were dependent on high standards that included landscaping, and Tesco’s proposals conflicted with this element.
Commenting on the decision, Tesco corporate affairs manager, Douglas Wilson, said: “We are of course disappointed by the overall decision, but are satisfied that the principle of a petrol station was supported. However, given the comments made with regards to landscaping associated with this application we will now be considering our options in light of this.
“In the meantime, we would like to thank everybody who took the time to support our application.”
The decision was welcomed by area planning manager Ronnie Irving, who appeared at the public inquiry as a witness for the council.
Mr Irving said: “The council feels that its position has been vindicated.”
Local councillor Brian Collins was another council witness and was pleasantly surprised at the news.
“I was beginning to think the weight of Tesco was becoming insurmountable in terms of local government,” he said.
“The scheme as proposed isn’t suitable - at the time of the inquiry I did say it was “rocks in a box” and was not in keeping with the area.
“The petrol pumps would have been on an illuminated plateau and would interfere with drivers and people living in the houses opposite.”
Fellow Castle Douglas and Glenkens members Peter Duncan and George Prentice also welcomed the news.
Councillor Duncan said: “I was confident that the process undertaken by the area committee was robust and I am not surprised that the Scottish Government has decided to turn down the appeal.”
And Councillor Prentice added: “I am happy for the traders in Castle Douglas and am pleased that the reporter has upheld the decision made by Stewartry area committee.
“I am more than happy with their store in Castle Douglas as I think that the town is now busier than ever.”
Hayton Graham, whose County Tyres business in Castle Douglas also sells petrol, was pleased at the decision.
“I’m highly delighted,” he said. “They get their own way too much.
“It’s not for me I’m so worried, it’s for the young ones in the town who could end up having to leave.
“It’s very good news.”
Galloway and Upper Nithsdale MSP Alex Fergusson had objected to the proposals when they were lodged and believes Mr Thomas had made the right choice.
“I am absolutely delighted to hear this decision and think it is the correct decision,” he said.
“I was very much against it in the first place and was appalled by their apparent disregard for what had gone on two years previously.
“Removing it was a significant part in them getting permission and I would have thought a lot more of them if they had accepted that, but I was deeply disappointed that they tried again. I am delighted and it proves that you get the correct decision sometimes.”
South of Scotland MSP Alasdair Morgan was glad that the opinions of local councillors had been heeded.
“Tesco were well aware when they got their first permission that the council was not content with the idea of a filling station.
“I am pleased that the Scottish Government has upheld the democratic decision of locally elected members. They have had two opportunities to debate whether or not they wanted to see a filling station in Castle Douglas and both times said they didn’t.
“As is their right, Tesco proceeded to the Scottish Government and they have clearly listened to the opinions of locally elected members.”
Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown described the decision as “a victory for common sense”.
He said: “It was clear all the way through this planning process that many local people had deep concerns about the impact this proposal would have on the other fuel retailers in Castle Douglas if it was successful.
“And more generally, people were worried that if Tesco were seen to get their own way again, it would be further evidence that they were trying to cement a retail monopoly in the area. From that point of view this decision will be seen as a victory for common sense.”