The troubled move of Duns’ Co-op store from the town centre to new premises on Langtongate took another step recently with a public consultation.
Given the serious and complicated nature of the application, Duns Community Council felt that extra time and consultation was needed to ensure the application was handled properly.
To that end, a special extension period was granted, and a public event was held at which questions could be raised.
Attending the event were John Haywood of the Scottish Borders Council Planning Department, Graeme Laing, planning Director at GL Hearne and Chris Beebe of Co-operative stores.
The meeting got off to a mixed start when Councillor Frances Reston had to apologise on behalf of the planning department after members of the public complained that there had been no plans available made available to them.
Councillor Renton apologised, acknowledging that the planning department had promised plans would be available to view in Duns library. However, she assured the public that the plans would be taken to the library on the day after the meeting.
Many of the public’s questions revolved around the future of the town centre. Many were concerned that the draft local plan zones the Langtongate site for housing.
They were told that the Co-op has made a presentation asking for change as the company consider that there is scope for development.
Graeme Laing told attendees that the Co-op wished to invest in Duns, adding that there was no room for expansion in the existing store and the present cramped environment resulted in overspill causing difficulties, with complaints to the council. Co-op had no intention of building a super-store, he said, just a larger supermarket.
It was confirmed that developers are aware of the new site’s tendency to flood and back-up with sewage during periods of heavy rain. Engineers had inspected the site and had a solution to flooding and drainage, while the Scottihs Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) said that there would be no problem. Scottish Water were also described as being satisfied.
There were also concerns raised that moving the store would be detrimental to the remaining town centre businesses.
The public were reassured that the move should be good for business in the town centre as it will attract more people to the town and prevent ‘leakage’.
However, the public appear to be less than apppeased by the placing of the new store on what is described as a busy road, especially given the fact that the Primary School is set to open in the old High School building there in early 2016.
One attendee said: “Langtongate is already a busy road. This will make it worse especially when the Primary school moves out there.
“There is already danger when children cross driveways jostling and pushing each other, this plan will make it worse.”
There were also worries aired about difficulties in shopping at the new store for the elderly and the disabled.