What are we to make of the City Council’s decision to grant permission for a Morrison’s Supermarket on Hutchison Road last week?
The decision comes on top of the granting of permission for a Sainsbury at the old B&Q site in nearby Longstone. What both these decisions have in common is that councillors went against officials’ recommendations in granting permission. “So what?” one might argue: councillors are not there simply to rubber-stamp officials views. Quite true and I’d be the first to argue for the primacy of elected councillors in having the final decision. But only if it is a well-informed decision.
In the case of Hutchison Road, officials had pointed out the impact on nearby trade – with two new supermarkets, a massive ASDA at Chesser and a newish Sainsbury in Gorgie. This has done nothing but harm to local shops right into Gorgie and, oh the bitter irony that I’ve been discussing with other council officials being involved in a campaign to promote Gorgie and Dalry shops. Things seem to have gone a bit quiet on that front – and no wonder if the planning committee continues with its supermarket obsession.
There’s little doubt that the gap site on Hutchison Road is an eyesore – even with the saplings which have taken a hold in the rubble. The site, of course, used to host a modest-scale Scotmid, which then became ASDA, before it decided to up sticks and cross to the other side of Chesser Avenue, multiplying in size many times over as it did so. A plan to build houses there arguably ran into the sands of the housing market downturn. So the new plan is for a mixed use site, with some homes alongside a Morrisons supermarket. Councillors, it seems were swayed by the argument that only a supermarket could make the site as a whole viable.
But it beggars belief that a housing only site could not be successful. It has all the ingredients of an eminently developable site with good ground conditions and easy access. It is yet another sign of how perverted our planning and development model has become that the community has to accept yet another gloomy retail shed in order to get much needed homes.