Planners have recommended that a new supermarket in Kirkcaldy be refused – to safeguard future plans for a hovercraft link to Edinburgh.
However a councillor claims that the crossing plans are dead in the water and should not impact on the decision.
Edinburgh Council refused permission for a terminal at Portobello in 2011, but the creation of Forthfast Ferries in 2014 revived the plans, although there has been no further development.
Now the subject has resurfaced with a proposal by Lidl for a bigger store across the road from Morrison’s supermarket on the Esplanade, which is set to be considered at a meeting of the Fife Central area planning committee tomorrow (Wednesday).
The plan would increase the size of the store and create another 15 jobs in addition to the current 15 staff currently employed by the existing store.
In a lengthy report to councillors, planners have recommended the application be refused, for a number of conditions, including the fact that the area is earmarked for an overspill car park for any future Forth crossing service.
However, Councillor George Kay, who represents the area on Fife Council, says he thinks that any potential hovercraft plans should be kept separate from the Lidl application.
“Firstly I don’t think the site for the Lidl application encroaches on the hovercraft site as it is on the opposite side of the road and I also personally don’t think the hovercraft will ever happen,” he told the Press this week.
Stagecoach, which operated a successful trial in 2007, pledged to invest more than £10 million in two craft, plus infrastructure. However when Edinburgh Council refused to grant permission for a landing ramp in 2011, Stagecoach said it had “killed off” the plans.
When Forthfast then set up three years later it brought hope that the plans could resurface. Although Robin Presswood, head of enterprise at Fife Council, confirmed the renewal of the application by Forthfast would keep the situation “ticking over,” at the time he said that there were no service plans in the immediate pipeline.
In the recent planning report on the new Lidl plans, other reasons given for refusal included the preferred use for the land being residential and or recreational in development plans for the area in the proposed Fife development plan.
A masterplan for Invertiel and Seafield, devised back in 2010 also said that the area should be improved to create a positive gateway into the centre of Kirkcaldy, something planners said the proposed store would not do.
The recommendation has been met with dismay from Lidl.
Gordon Rafferty, head of property for Lidl in Scotland said: “We are disappointed that our application has been recommended for refusal, especially given that our relocation has received significant support from the local community because of the social and economic benefits that it will deliver for Kirkcaldy.
“A number of issues were raised at the last moment, which is particularly disappointing as we firmly believe that our application complies with the Council’s planning policies.
“Not only will our proposal bring into use a brownfield site, which has remained vacant for some time, but it will also create up to 15 new jobs in addition to the 15 already provided by the existing store.
“All of our existing and new employees in Kirkcaldy, and across the UK, will receive a minimum of £8.45 per hour from 1 March 2017, which is in line with the new Living Wage Foundation rate and goes above and beyond the National Living Wage as set by the Government. Our relocation will also allow our existing unit to be backfilled with a non-food retailer, ensuring continued use of this site.
“We remain committed to our programme of investment in Kirkcaldy and believe that our relocation will greatly improve the shopping experience of local residents.”