A new supermarket at the western gateway into Kirkcaldy has been given the go-ahead, despite a planning recommendation to refuse it.
Lidl has been granted permission for a glass-fronted store with a sales area of 1424 square metres – an increase from 1286 square metres at its current outlet on the town’s Esplanade – opposite the Morrison’s supermarket.
It will create 15 more jobs, doubling the current workforce of the store just a few hundred metres along the road.
The move was granted by eightvotes to four, subject to a number of landscaping and environmental conditions at an emotion-packed meeting of the Fife central area planning committee on Wednesday – against the recommendation of planning officers.
Planners had raised a number of reasons for refusal based on the application being contrary to the proposed Fife plan.
They said it was within an area designated for residential, business or leisure and tourism and not for retail and it would not help to improve the western entrance gateway to the town with an attractive frontage as the car park would front onto the road.
However, following a heartfelt speech by Councillor Neil Crooks, chairman of the Kirkcaldy area committee, he put forward a detailed motion for accepting the application, listing a number of conditions.
He said he had “agonised over this for a while” before coming to his decision.
“This site could lie derelict for the next 20-25 years,” he said.
“It is good to have blue-sky thinking of what we would like to see, but if, at the end of the day, it produces nothing, then we will end up with a derelict corridor like that at Victoria Road.”
Councillor George Kay, ward representative for the area, said that Kirkcaldy town centre had been “compounded by failure” in the last few years with the loss of Tesco and BHS, and the expansion of Lidl was a chance of success.
“For the last ten years we have worked hard to get something onto this site,” he said.
“We have looked at restaurants, cinemas, housing, fast food take-aways. They have come along, examined the site and dismissed it.
“What are we going to do? Wait another ten years for some nebulous thing; for the possibility of a hovercraft taking place and, if it ever did would it need extra parking?”
And he said that the plans had the backing of Kirkcaldy4All, which promotes the town centre, as well as Kirkcaldy West Community Council, Invertiel Tenants and Residents and Linktown Tenants and Residents.
He said a lot had already been achieved in the area through the Invertiel Forum, with the proposed site one of just two derelict pieces of land in the area still to be filled.
“We have been given an opportunity and we must grasp it,” he said. “There’s no other site in the town centre that meets the criteria.”
In an amendment for refusal, Councillor John Beare argued for the council’s town centre first policy, saying: “This will relocate and take trade further away from the town centre.”
He was seconded by Councillor Tom Adams, chairman of the planning committee, who said: “Yes, it is an eyesore coming into the town but by getting rid of that we may be in danger of creating another eyesore.
“I would rather see an empty space than empty buildings.”
The application received 11 letters of support from the public and one objection.
Following the meeting Lidl expressed its delight at the decision.
Gordon Rafferty, Head of Property for Lidl in Scotland, commented: “We could not be more delighted to have received planning permission, and look forward to getting started on construction. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the local community for their continued support, and very much look forward to opening our doors and offering our fresh, quality, great value products in the not too distant future.”
“We would like to take the opportunity at this time to thank all of those who have supported us so far, and look forward to sharing updated plans in the not too distant future.”