A major retailer has been given the green light to open in Brechin, despite being accused of portraying the town in a negative light.
Planners have approved proposals lodged by Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM) to open an outlet at the troubled former Pictavia visitor centre, which closed in 2014.
Brechin Community Council said it was ‘infuriating’ that the company failed to paint a rosy picture of the town in a supplementary retail study which was requested by Angus Council.
The study prepared by Cushman and Wakefield claimed no alternative sites in Brechin were “suitable, available and viable to accommodate the application proposal”.
The real estate firm said many of the vacant units within the town centre and edge of centre “are too small for EWM requirements or are in a dilapidated state which are not ready for EWM to begin trading from or thereby commercially viable”.
In the list of 21 alternative town centre sites it said 16 were “too small” and used phrases such as “inappropriate”, “unsuitable”, “dilapidated” or “excessive in scale” to write off the remainder.
EWM had also fired a warning ahead of determination that if the application was refused they wouldn’t invest the £250,000 in Brechin and shoppers would have to go out of town for clothing or footwear.
Jill Scott, chairwoman of Brechin Community Council, said: “The economy of any small town at this time is struggling due to economic situation nationally.
“Every town is doing its best to put forward a positive impression of what it has to offer.
“It is infuriating that this company should dare to portray Brechin in such a negative manner by using out of date photographs and information.
“Many of these buildings have been renovated and upgraded and are an asset to our community.”
The Pictavia centre opened in 1999 at a cost of £1.2 million to tell the story of the Picts.
However, the project failed to attract predicted visitor numbers and despite attempts to revitalise the facility, it closed 15 years later.
Angus Council’s handling report stated: “The introduction of EWM will also help sustain local employment and investment in Brechin by the addition of 10 new jobs and represents a £250,000 investment by the Castle Centre in refurbishment and fit out of the former Pictavia building.
“In Brechin town centre, there is a shortage of clothing and footwear retail floorspace and a corresponding lack of quality comparison clothing retailing.
“This is confirmed by our 2019 survey which shows the presence of only four independent fashion shops in the town centre in addition to three charity shops selling clothing.
“Moreover, we feel that the presence of no menswear shops is also limiting.
“We conclude that there is a material qualitative need for additional clothing and footwear retail provision in Brechin.”
The council said there is a need to “improve both the breadth and depth of the retail offer which should make Brechin as a whole more attractive to shoppers living within its catchment area”.
It said bolstering the existing retail offer at the Castle Centre will be important in helping to “promote Brechin as a successful and growing retail centre and tourist destination in Angus”.