Planning (Supermarkets)

Question Time — Scottish Executive — General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:40 am on 8th February 2007.

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Photo of Andrew Welsh Andrew Welsh Scottish National Party 11:40 am, 8th February 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive whether it is satisfied that current planning laws are adequate to deal with rapid, competing supermarket developments and to ensure fairness and long-term benefit. (S2O-11899)

Photo of Des McNulty Des McNulty Labour

Although Scottish planning policy is not concerned with regulating competition, it aims to ensure that all sectors of the community have access to a choice of shopping, therefore it supports the protection and enhancement of town centres and indicates that they should be the first choice for new shopping developments.

Photo of Andrew Welsh Andrew Welsh Scottish National Party

In the face of the increasing rivalry between supermarket chains, which are well armed with the best, most expert legal and planning advisers, and are building up land banks and effectively blocking or delaying decisions affecting large and small towns throughout Scotland, what is the Government doing to ensure that the wishes and best long-term interests of local residents are protected?

May I again express to the minister the frustration of the people of Arbroath, whose clearly expressed location preference has been denied, while another location decision is being held up in the minister's department? When will he announce his decision on the Arbroath situation, which illustrates a serious and more general national problem?

Photo of Des McNulty Des McNulty Labour

In relation to the Arbroath situation, the developer also requires consent for road construction under the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984. That consent was refused by Angus Council, and the developer subsequently appealed the decision to the Scottish ministers. As Andrew Welsh is aware, it is a complex local issue. It is extremely important that the Scottish ministers carefully consider all the evidence that is put forward not just by the developer but by other interested parties, including members of the local community, who have the right under the 1984 act to make representations prior to a decision being reached. The process is now at an advanced stage, and it is anticipated that the decision on whether or not to grant a road construction consent will be made very soon. I am sure that members will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to make any further comment at this stage that could be prejudicial to the eventual outcome.