FEARS that a new supermarket in Tweedbank would hurt Galashiels are “laughable”, according to a councillor.
Lidl was announced as part of the Borders Gateway development in October after Premier Inn pulled out of the project.
And David Parker, who represents the Tweedbank community, says he has never seen a planning application with such “widespread support” in his 27 years as a councillor.
In October, concerns were raised at Galashiels Community Council that the proposed supermarket would take shoppers out of the town.
But Mr Parker, who is Scottish Borders Council’s (SBC) convener, said that was a “laughable suggestion”.
“You’re not about to see an exodus of people going to Tweedbank because of a Lidl,” he told the Border Telegraph. “This is a very small superstore dwarfed by the likes of Tesco and Asda.
“There’s more supermarket space per head of population in Gala than probably anywhere else in the country so a relatively modest offering in Tweedbank is going to do nothing to impact on Galashiels in any major way at all.”
The Leaderdale and Melrose councillor added: “Gala is the major retail centre of the Borders because of the supermarkets it has and the other retail shops.
“I think it will have a negligible impact on Gala.”
SBC’s planning officers are currently considering the application for Lidl and five business units to join the Borders Gateway development – which currently includes a Costa drive-thru and BP petrol station.
Mr Parker says he expects the council’s planners will refuse to support the proposals due to the potential negative effect on High Streets, the visual impact and that the land is not designated for food retail.
But elected members will have the final say on the application.
“They have always been reluctant, on policy grounds, to open up the industrial estate to certain classes although with Borders Gateway they have conceded a Costa, a petrol station and previously a hotel so they have moved a bit,” said Mr Parker. “I think with food retail they might say that it is just a step too far.”
In a recent community consultation held by Manor Place Developments and Lidl, more than 82 per cent of households consulted were “in favour of the plan”.
Mr Parker is calling on Borderers who want the Lidl store to show SBC’s planning officers that there is “massive support” for the plans.
“I’ve been an elected member for 27 years now and I can honestly say I’ve never come across a planning application that has such widespread support,” he said. “There’s massive support in the Tweedbank community and further afield for this development.
“I’m struggling to find anyone in the community I represent [who is] against it.”
He added: “It’s been quite a quiet application so far because I think the public probably think it’s a bit of a no-brainer given that Tweedbank is a growing community, it’s about to have at least 300 more houses and it’s very poorly served in terms of any major retail offering.”
Fellow Leaderdale and Melrose councillor Tom Miers has opposed the plans in recent months.
The Conservative member said: “I’m a big fan of Lidl and a big fan of consumer choice in a competitive market economy, but you have to look at things in the round to get policy right and encourage high quality jobs in the long term.
“So, ‘yes’ to new shops and hotels, but they need to be in our town centres, not on every out-of-town roundabout in the Borders.”
Mr Parker said he expects the council’s planners to publish their recommendation within the next 10 days.
The supermarket will create up to 40 new jobs if approved, according to a Lidl spokesperson.