Shopping in Morningside

Who benefits from another Sainsbury “local” store in Morningside asks Andy Saunders.

Morningside Road has not yet been dealt the death blow that other high streets throughout Scotland have faced.  It is still a bustling place and well-supported by the local community.  But the signs of decline are there, with empty shops starting to appear.

Now I understand that Sainsbury has put in a planning application for a “local” store in Morningside, in the three shop fronts opposite the post office that have been vacant for some time.

As always in these cases, the application was made under an another name and bizarrely the local officer responsible for planning applications refused to confirm or deny to the local Green councillor and now also Green MSP, Alison Johnstone, that it was for Sainsbury, even though this had been confirmed to the Community Council.

If it is going to be a Sainsbury, it’ll join the two other national food stores in the High Street, M&S and Waitrose, in a 100 metre stretch of road.  The obvious impact this will have on local small traders seems to have been ignored by planners.  I’ve already heard that three shops in Morningside are planning to close soon, partly due to the prospect of the Sainsbury development.

Soon Morningside will have even more empty shops as the trade of the smaller retailers is sucked into the big shops.  Any argument that this development would make Morningside an even more attractive prospect for retail and as a consequence help the smaller traders thrive, would have to address the existing parking issue.   Proponents would also have to dismiss the evidence of communities up and down the country – and here in Edinburgh – where this sort of development has taken place with a devastating impact on the diversity of shops.  Ask small traders in Gorgie Road whether the opening of Sainsbury there has helped their business.

Recently the City Council has appointed a team of three retail champions including one for the Bruntsfield / Morningside area.  If our local champion wants to endear herself to the community she can do worse than have a word with her colleagues in Planning.

Thankfully, the Greens are not a lone voice.  There is already a campaign against this development.   There is time yet to stop another nail being driven into the coffin of independent high streets.