Waitrose has £325k on table for Tuesday planning hearing – and opposition rolls in

We understand that discussion between Waitrose and council officers on what is called ‘mitigation’ – or planning gain – had not concluded by the time the report for the planing hearing on Tuesday 21st February had to be written.

This means that the figure on the table going in to the hearing is not £190k but £325k, with a contribution to the play park contribution sitting separate from the ‘planning gain’ mitigation package as it does not fulfill the planning gain criteria.

Paul Doherty, Director of Drum Development Company (Helensburgh) Ltd, co-applicant with Waitrose on the application and, as site owner, Waitrose’s prospective landlord, has told us that Waitrose is also to give £1,000 per month to local good causes.

We have asked Mr Doherty a series of direct questions and have engaged with him in frank exchanges of view on the impact of the presence of Waitrose in the out of town location at Colgrain on Cardross Road.

He has made the point that what is less well known is that competitors of Waitrose were also trying to position themselves in out of town locations.

The galling thing about this is that Waitrose and its competition have taken this line because of Helensburgh townsfolk’s long standing objection to retail development on the pier head. They have all felt that attempting to locate there would not be worth the pain of the public opposition they feared would result from such an application. While this may have been an historical stance in the town, we do not accept that it is how townsfolk feel today.

We do accept, though, that this is an accurate account of what has been a factor in the decisions taken.

The lesson to learn for town residents is that the axis of regeneration is the compromise to be wrought between convenience for residents – as a town must be a positive place to live in – and what it has to offer to visitors in numbers to crank up its local economy.

The pier head site was the bargaining chip and it has not been well played by anyone concerned.

We do not accept that a leisure centre has to be in a town centre location – any more than we accept that any retail outlet other than Waitrose could have galvanised the town centre by its presence on the pier head site.

Waitrose has rarity, cachet, quality and, perhaps unrecognised, affordability. It will pull – and continue to pull, a substantial market to its doors, wherever it is.

If the choice were to be  between Waitrose at Colgrain or another more familiar quality supermarket on the pierhead – then, for the regeneration of Helensburgh town cantre, we do not doubt that the latter would be the best option.

Opposition muster

Jackie Baillie, the MSP for the area, has today written to council CEO, copied to each councillor, asking that the hearing on Tuesday 21st February be postponed: Jackie Baillie MSP Waitrose Letter to Council CEO.

The retailer, Sainsbury’s has also opened up about its own position, its interest in locating a new store on the pierhead site. It has written a letter circulated to all councijllors and to local media, asking for the rejection of the Waitrose application: Sainsbury’s – The Case for Helensburgh Town Centre (20.02.12).

If the planning hearing tomorrow goes ahead (which it will) and continues to defy the wisdom of the planners, the Waitrose store will prosper – as it would wherever it had located – but the town centre will continue on its grisly slide.

Consequences

In the end you don’t get what you’ve not fought for hard enough and in the end Helensburgh residents may well be happy to drive quickly through the sad town centre out to Waitrose and return home quickly with the fruits of their hunting trip, close the door and live an enclosed life.

Things could still be different but the odds are against it.

As soon as the council conveniently cleared the deck for the Waitrose application at Colgrain by putting a proscription (and why exactly?)  on any major retail development on the pierhead, the local authority position was clear.

In the end, the council administration – and not its planning department – are responsible for what it has decided to enable – Waitrose at Colgrain. If they push this through regardless of professional advice, Helensburgh as a whole will pay for it.

In waiting, like everyone else, to see what happens tomorrow, we would wish to pay tribute to Paul Doherty of Drum who engaged in a tough set of exchanges and behaved with considerable grace under sustained pressure.

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Related Articles & Comments

  • Helensburgh has rejected a supermarket on the pier three times in the past decade. How many more times do you need to hear it?

    That being the case, the rest of your argument falls. I am beginning to think we need a For Helensburgh website, leaving you to concentrate on the old Argyll area where you are clearly better informed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    PBP February 21, 2012 9:19 am Reply
    • So where did the recent survey majorities FOR a retail development on the pier head come from – as quoted by Sainsburys in the letter we have published?

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      newsroom February 21, 2012 11:14 am Reply
      • Don’t know – it was not mentioned today. Don’t suppose Sainsburys could have an interest?

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        PBP February 21, 2012 6:49 pm Reply
  • PBP – ‘old Argyll area’, care to define what you mean by ‘old’

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Scruff February 21, 2012 9:51 am Reply
    • The former Argyll before it was lucky enough to land the cash cow of Helensburgh and District.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      PBP February 21, 2012 2:22 pm Reply
  • I’d like to know PBP if this is your attitude towards For Argyll? or to Argyll itself?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Crazy She-Bat February 21, 2012 10:17 am Reply
    • It is about For Argyll itself, which in many respects I admire but which does not seem to have much of a clue about Helensburgh.

      This morning at the hearing it was made clear, through various surveys, that thousands were in favour of Waitrose at Colgrain, and that there was a roughly 55-45 split against a pier supermarket.

      Yet For Argyll has consistently claimed the opposite in both cases.

      Today there is a huge attendance of Waitrose supporters and, so far, six objectors have put their heads above the parapet.

      Interestingly, the only person booed this morning was the representative of Helensburgh Retailers Association.

      If I was the editor of For Argyll, at this point I would be questioning the quality of the reporting.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      PBP February 21, 2012 2:28 pm Reply
  • Apparently, Victoria Halls is currently packed to capacity with many people waiting outside as well to hear the verdict.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Crazy She-Bat February 21, 2012 10:57 am Reply
  • For Argyll don’t seem to understand my area either. Folk here are still waiting to learn the membership make up of the Easdale Island charity, Eilean Eisdeal, and how the money was spent from the Scottish Gas Green Streets award. For Argyll claimed that this information should be in the public domain – so where is it? We seem to have been forgotten or FA aren’t interested in persuing this further. Perhaps they’re not bothered about the rights of folk here, or is it too political?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Lowry February 21, 2012 11:05 am Reply
    • Lowry – as you must know, we are a very small team with a huge amount of work to do and we cannot keep absolutely on top of everything.

      We haven’t forgotten about this matter and we will be pursuing it.

      You gave us a smile at the suggestion that this – or anything – might be ‘too political’ for us. Hardly our MO.

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      newsroom February 21, 2012 11:12 am Reply
  • Copied from URTV’s Facebook page:

    Final count is 693 letters of support to the council for Waitrose and 137 letters against, including a petition. There were also 7 miscellaneous letters.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Crazy She-Bat February 21, 2012 12:33 pm Reply
  • Same source again – URTV:

    The Council Planning Department and Waitrose have both spoken. The Planning Department say that the effects on the town centre could have been grossly underestimated by Waitrose’s retail impact survey and that they are maintaining that they recommend refusal of the application.

    Waitrose still believe that the effects on the town centre will be negligible and they can mitigate them. Waitrose spokesperson, Martin Gorman, received a big round of applause for saying Helensburgh is crying out for a good quality food store.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Crazy She-Bat February 21, 2012 12:59 pm Reply
    • Be interesting to see whether members choose to reject the advice given to them by the planning department and the justification for that rejection (should it happen)

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      Integrity? Not in the ConDemAll February 21, 2012 1:22 pm Reply
      • We understand that it is practically unheard of for Councillor Danny Kelly, who is chairing the hearing, to overturn the planners’ recommendation. If he were to do so on this occasion, it would be strange.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

        newsroom February 21, 2012 1:35 pm Reply
        • But he did.

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          PBP February 21, 2012 6:32 pm Reply
  • Thanks for update CSB. No room at the inn for me at 10.25. Hey ho, should have got there a bit earlier!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    gd February 21, 2012 1:19 pm Reply
  • Now lunch time in the Victoria Halls. It is a full house. Looks like it could run into this evening as the previous supermarket application did about 10 years ago.

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    Councillor George Freeman February 21, 2012 1:32 pm Reply
  • I could be wrong. But I think they made an exception for Henry Bros at Colgrain, which was greenbelt outwith the local development plan. That seemed strange at the time. Probably a large brown envelope involved there.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    gd February 21, 2012 1:54 pm Reply
  • From URTV again:

    ‎30 pro Waitrose representatives have spoken, including Councillor Vivien Dance and Community Councilman Nigel Harman. Now it’s over to the objectors.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Crazy She-Bat February 21, 2012 3:26 pm Reply
  • I turned up in time to hear a lady in support of Waitrose say she wanted Waitrose so she could buy pak chow in Helensburgh. That seems to be the level of the debate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Graeme McCormick February 21, 2012 4:23 pm Reply
  • It is 4.30 and we are now into PPSLC members asking questions before everyone sums up. It could be another hour or so before we have a decision depending on how many questions are asked.

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    Councillor George Freeman February 21, 2012 4:39 pm Reply
  • We cope with bin collections once a week (or even fortnightly) so how about fancy supermarket visits once a week? – a Waitrose on a seagoing barge, serving the west coast – say from Helensburgh to Fort William, stopping off at Dunoon, Rothesay, Campbeltown, Oban, Fort William – and maybe Tobermory and Port Ellen alternate weeks. Just dreaming. At Helensburgh it would tie up at the pier, of course. The supermarket aisles would be cushioned with giant airbags to keep everything shipshape on passage, and maybe even giant gimbals would be effective.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Robert Wakeham February 21, 2012 4:44 pm Reply
    • Great idea – a 21st century Vital Spark!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      Tim McIntyre February 21, 2012 6:01 pm Reply
  • Summing up now underway.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Councillor George Freeman February 21, 2012 5:21 pm Reply
  • Summing up now complete. Now moving on to the PPSLC members debating the issue before the decision is taken. It looks like it will be an approval but watch this space.

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    Councillor George Freeman February 21, 2012 5:45 pm Reply
  • Bruce Marshall has stated that he will support the application if a competent amendment can be brought forward. David Kinniburgh has stated that he will be doing the same. Robin Currie has stated that he hopes the application will be approved but the mitigation is insufficient. He is looking for an additional £420k in mitigation for various items. Neil McKay also looking to support it if an amendment can be put together but needs more mitigation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Councillor George Freeman February 21, 2012 5:57 pm Reply
    • This could be said to be an almost perfect line up of the numpties. Authoritative? Hardly. But no doubt it will be sufficient, along with a side dish of pak choi.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      newsroom February 21, 2012 6:01 pm Reply
    • I’d like to know what Councillor Currie wanted to do with the extra £420,000.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      Robert Wakeham February 21, 2012 6:54 pm Reply
  • Alex McNaughton has also confirmed his support along with Gordon Chalmers. It is now clear that it will be approved if a competent motion / amendment can be put together.
    Cllr McAlister has also indicated support along with Cllr Devon, Cllr McMillan and Cllr McQueen.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Councillor George Freeman February 21, 2012 6:03 pm Reply
  • In the final straight now. Cllr McCuish has confirmed his support as has Cllr Reay. We only await the views of the Chair.

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    Councillor George Freeman February 21, 2012 6:07 pm Reply
  • Cllr Reay now moving a motion to approve the application. Now reading it out to obtain confirmation if it is competent or not. Now seconded by the Chair – Cllr Kelly.

    Application has been approved.

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    Councillor George Freeman February 21, 2012 6:19 pm Reply
  • Pingback: Argyll News: RIP Helensburgh town centre: Waitrose out of town location approved | For Argyll

  • A long hot day, but full marks to the Helensburgh area public for their active participation.

    The right result too, so long as Waitrose are not put off by the vastly increased ‘mitigation payment’.

    On a wider stage, Government should be looking at how such payments, which are pure and simple bribery, could be regulated.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    PBP February 21, 2012 6:43 pm Reply
    • I thought ‘mitigation’ in the context of a supermarket proposal meant meeting the cost of any extra roadworks, pedestrian crossings etc made necessary by the extra traffic generated by the development. I’d like to know if some councillors took a more elastic view of the meaning of the word.

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      Robert Wakeham February 21, 2012 7:00 pm Reply
  • I’m sure they won’t be put off by the mitigation payment. In all probability there will be negotiations over the purchase price between drum & waitrose. The application was made under two names – Waitrose & Wandering Wild (aka drum). It is highly likely that there is an agreement between drum and waitrose, where waitrose purchase the land subject to planning approval. This allows them to attach caveats re planning gain / mitigation payments. It will probably be drum who take a hit on the price. They’ll be aware that without planning approval their land is worthless. I actually think planning gain is a good thing. Just as long as it reaches the intended parties and not the council coffers, which sadly often happens.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    gd February 21, 2012 7:08 pm Reply
    • We need a clear statement from the coumcil of how this mitigation sum was calculated, and how it will be committed.

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      Robert Wakeham February 21, 2012 7:13 pm Reply
  • I’d like to see the money used to directly improve the retailers units / frontages. I’ve attached a link to the merchant city initiative below, which completely transformed that area.
    http://glasgowmerchantcity.net/regeneration.html
    I’m pleased Waitrose got their approval. Had Waitrose been rejected, then all that would have happened is a continuation of the current decline of the town centre. That decline is due to the apathy of a lot of shop keepers. Either the shopkeepers take this opportunity to get their fair share of mitigation money to improve the service that they provide. Or they sell up and allow the next generation of shopkeepers to take over. I’m sure like me, the majority of Helensburgh shoppers do not want to soley shop in Waitrose. To me the Waitrose development has always been about a high end outlet recognising the potential and wanting to invest in our town, which will hopefully be a catalyst for further investment in the town centre.

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    gd February 21, 2012 7:59 pm Reply

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