BURNTISLAND retailers have launched a campaign against plans to create a mini out-of-town retail park - and urged people to support town businesses by ‘shopping local’.
Burntisland Unlimited - the group set up a year ago to raise awareness of traders in the seaside town - is leading the fight to block a supermarket and four other shops on land to the south of Aberdour Road at the Geds Mill Close area.
Developers say it will create ‘’much needed’’ new outlets and will serve passing trade as well as residents in the west of the town.
But the planning application, lodged by Collinswell Land Ltd, has sparked a backlash in the High Street.
Burntisland Unlimited has put petitions into many shops in the town to generate support - and has pledged to fight it ‘’tooth and nail.’’
Lee Christie, proprietor of Burntisland Post Office and one of the founder members of Burntisland Unlimited, told The Press: “The people of Burntisland are, in general, incredibly supportive of the High Street and we boast amongst our shops a butcher, fish shop and fruit shop.
“We also have numerous bakers, hairdressers, convenience stores, a Post Office, hardware shop, beauticians, pubs and takeaways, not to mention the artists and jewellery makers at the renovated station buildings, and of course the amazing Fife Diet was created and thrives in Burntisland.
“There are still quite a few empty shops on the High Street and surrounding streets so it is imperative that we keep on banging the ‘Shop Local’ drum.
“But we are facing a challenge to all this in the form of a mini out-of-town retail park.
“We are fighting this tooth and nail.’’
Lee said while supermarkets were convenient and often cheaper, they could have a negative impact on existing traders.
“Is it not time the tide turned and we started to embrace the quirky, individual shops promoting local produce and skills which bring employment and a real sense of community to a town?” she added.
“Petitions against the plans are filling up quickly in most of the local shops and once a committee date is set we will be lobbying councillors.’’
Pat Hanson, who runs the Potter About cafe in the High Street and the Christians Against Poverty debt advice centre in the town, said the application could threaten the town centre.
She said: “Burntisland is increasingly unique in having a diverse High Street.
“We get many people popping into the cafe who are looking at relocating from Edinburgh, as it is an easy commute from here. What attracts them again and again is the community feel of our High Street. We are also a tourist town, and as such should be encouraging development of our High Street, as opposed to some faceless retail park.
“It would threaten many of the small local businesses, and as we have major supermarkets within a seven mile radius, it is completely unneccessary.
“Burntisland High Street has a fantastic sense of community and if folks find the convenience stores too expensive for a weekly shop, it’s easy to shop online at the major supermarkets - we don’t need one in town.” She added: “So far, I haven’t spoken to anyone who is for this retail park.”
In his objection, lodged with the Council, Bruce Stuart, from the Food for Thought Cafe in the High Street, highlighted ‘‘over provision’’ and added: ‘‘If this development goes ahead it may well have a detrimental effect on the retailers who currently have businesses there.
“Fife Council states it wishes to support town centres - this proposal will encourage a move away from our traditional shopping centre.
“The developers have carried out a vehicular survey and have found that in excess of 5000 vehicles currently pass this site. Couple this with the new school at Toll Park site with the safer routes to school for children being proposed, makes the likely increase in traffic both dangerous and unacceptable.”
Local councillor Susan Leslie added: “There have been concerns raised about the impact that this proposal might have on the shops in the High Street and also the impact of traffic at the location.
“I have supported the local retailers in the High Street in their efforts to meet local needs and promote their businesses. I am certainly committed to continuing to do this.”
The Developer’s View
Mike Rolland of Hurd Rolland Partnership, the agent acting on behalf of Collinswell Land Ltd, said: “The proposed new retail development at Collinswell will provide five much needed new retail opportunities to support the existing retail offer within the town.
“Favourably located to serve passing trade as well as the new residential development to the west of Burntisland, the proposal will replace retail units previously lost in this part of town. As part of the planning application process a retail impact statement was commissioned and carried out by professional planning consultants, Montgomery Forgan Associates.
“They concluded that the development will not detract from the vitality and viability of the town centre but instead will contribute to retaining retail expenditure within the town, which might otherwise be lost to new developments in Kirkcaldy. Only five per cent of the retail space within the High Street is currently unoccupied. “By providing improved choice and convenience for customers the proposal will encourage them to visit the High Street for the balance of their shopping rather than visiting a major supermarket outside of town.”
He added: “Finally the development will provide new employment opportunities offering approximately, 60 new jobs.”