A hard-hitting new report could sound the death knell for an £11 million Angus retail development.
Consultants Scott Hobbs Planning – brought in by Angus Council to probe the application – said the proposed development could have “significant, structural, long term consequences for the future of the town centre as a retail destination”.
The Edinburgh-based company was ordered to review Brackenbrae Investment Ltd’s initial retail statement following claims it produced “inconsistent results”.
The survey suggested Arbroath town centre shops were “over-trading” by more than 20% which critics suggested was at odds with the number of empty properties.
Talks have also been ongoing with Burger King and Costa Coffee to fill other units on the land which latterly housed the Presentation Products factory.
The Scott Hobbs Planning report stated: “The conclusions reached in this report lead to the overall conclusion that the impact on the vitality and viability of Arbroath town centre arising from the proposed development is understated in the retail statement and is likely to be significantly higher.
“The retail statement calculates an overall impact on the town centre of 6% (5% impact on comparison goods turnover and 10% impact on convenience goods turnover).
“Even at these levels the town centre comparison trade (which is the significant majority) is achieving just over 75% of what it is expected to achieve.
“Even a cursory visit to the main streets which make up the town centre, and the Abbeygate Centre, quickly leads to the conclusion that the centre is vulnerable to competition from out of centre retail which should, according to policy, in the first instance be located in the town centre.
“A significant increase in the predicted impact, coupled with the highly flexible format and floorspace ranges which could be facilitated in the proposed development, could have significant, structural, long term consequences for the future of the town centre as a retail destination.”
Jigsaw Planning, on behalf of objector Asda, said the review confirmed there are “significant concerns that the impact on the vitality and viability of Arbroath Town Centre has been understated in the retail statement and that the impact is actually likely to be significantly higher”.
Director Katherine Sneeden said: “As such Asda maintains its position that the council should refuse this application.
“The impact that this proposal will have on the town centre is significant in relative terms given the total quantum of retail and the potential for town centre tenants to relocate.”
Co-op also said the report reaffirmed its view that the application would have a significant adverse effect on Arbroath and Carnoustie town centres.
Brackenbrae Investments Ltd stuck to its guns and said its proposal could result in “increased expenditure retention within the town centre, via the new linked trips that would be generated by the development and the retention of more shoppers within the catchment”.
It said the “original sequential assessment” was “robust and fully assesses locations with the potential to accommodate the overall development proposal”.
However, it said that if Angus Council still has concerns regarding the scale and nature of the development proposals, it would consider “entering into dialogue to agree appropriately worded conditions to address these matters”.
Angus Council plans to make a decision by August at the latest.