IT’S all systems go for ASDA in Forfar.
After a tense and sometimes frank debate in the Town and County Hall last Thursday, members of Angus Council’s development standards committee agreed to grant the go-ahead for the supermarket giant’s plans to demolish the bulk of St James House on St James’ Road and replace it with a retail superstore, car parking, ancillary works and 16 flats, creating 270 full and part-time jobs.
However, the final decision was made after careful consideration of a number of objections put before the committee - from Forfar councillors Glennis Middleton and Colin Brown, local businessman Charles Jarvis and a local resident.
They spoke of what they perceived would be a major threat to the town centre, and on-going traffic issues on St James Road.
However, the proposals received the backing of a number of councillors - from Arbroath, Brechin and Kirriemuir.
Arbroath Councillor David Fairweather said: “If you had offered me this in Arbroath I would have bitten your hand off. For us not to go ahead with this - what an opportunity Forfar would be losing. To get this for Angus would be fantastic.”
He disagreed with Councillor’s Middleton’s fears for the Forfar town centre, stating ASDA would have a positive influence.
“It will stop leakage out of Forfar and will bring a lot of visitors to Forfar.”
Councillor Bob Myles stated he thought the road situation would be safer now as the former Don & Low factory had been serviced by HGVs. He also believed visitors to the ASDA store would take the opportunity to shop in Forfar, a view backed by Kirriemuir councillor Alison Andrews.
Councillor Myles said ASDA would bring “huge benefits” to the people of Forfar and compared the fears for the future of town centre shops to those expressed when it was announced the farmers’ market was to visit Forfar, although local shops now report an increase in trade on market day.
The application also received support from Forfar councillor John Rymer.
He stated when the initial application for a superstore at the St James site came forward, he had voted against it. The application was refused and was later taken to the Scottish Government in an appeal which cost Angus Council dearly.
He said Forfar shoppers currently travel to Dundee to shop at Morrisons or Sainsbury’s and that the ASDA store in Forfar would be competition for Tesco.
In moving the report for approval, committee convener David Lumgair said he felt there was a need for ASDA in Forfar.
“I think Tesco needs the competition. A great deal of people from Letham go to Dundee for ASDA.
“As for the point made about the recession (see story on page four), I have seen three recessions in my life. We will come out of this and move on.
“There is a great number of housing to come on stream in Forfar and it will be a large town.”
Despite a valiant effort by Forfar councillor Colin Brown to reject the application, it was approved by committee.
Speaking after the meeting ASDA, the UK’s lowest priced supermarket, welcomed the decision.
They said the plans will see a significant investment in the area and create up to 270 full and part-time jobs.
They confirmed demolition of the existing buildings on the site is due to commence with an aim to opening the store in the autumn.
Sarah Mills, acting property communications manager for Scotland, said: “ASDA is delighted that Angus Council has given its consent to the construction of a new supermarket for Forfar.
“Our proposals will bring a disused site next to the town centre back into commercial use and will create hundreds of job opportunities.
“We have been delighted by the support we have received from the local community. We want to ensure that local businesses and residents can benefit from the procurement, supply and employment opportunities that the supermarket will bring to the town.”
ASDA is proposing to deliver a new store for Forfar with a sales area of 28,000 sq ft and a gross store area of approximately 50,000 sq ft.
They will offer a wide range of ASDA’s quality products at affordable prices, ample car parking spaces, cycle parking spaces, additional recycling facilities for the town and an in-store café.
A new public space on the site will link with the town centre and there will be pedestrian access to the store from the High Street through a linkway from Little Causeway.