Debate over Morrisons bid

News that supermarket chain Morrisons is set to open a store in Dalkeith has been met with mixed reaction.

Last week’s Advertiser broke the story that Midlothian Council had announced a deal for the store on the site of the former bus depot at Eskbank Road.

With planning consent already in place for a 47,000 sq ft store, a new supermarket could be open as early as Christmas next year.

Many – including council deputy leader Owen Thompson (SNP), MP David Hamilton (Lab) and community councillor Neil Hynd – have welcomed the news as a major boost to the local economy. But Councillor Ian Baxter (Green) has a “real fear” the town could lose its diversity.

He told the Advertiser: “I have concerns about the impact on local shops – how long until greengrocers or newsagents close?

“An increased footfall would only help shops that are providing something different to what the supermarket will be selling. Chemists, florists, bakers, newsagents and general stores will be impacted, and I feel that we should be more positive in the way we help these shopkeepers.

“My real fear is the town centre will lose the mix of shops and we end up with pound shops, charity shops and pay day loan centres.”

This week MP David Hamilton (Lab) said he believed that having all four of the UK’s largest supermarket chains [Morrisons, Tesco, Sainsburys and Asda] in Midlothian would be a “huge boost” for the county.

Welcoming last week’s announcement, he said: “Whichever way you look at it, this is great news.

“The benefit is that it would act as an anchor and attract people to Dalkeith to do their shopping.

“Many of those shoppers would have a wander along the High Street, and that would be brilliant for local trade.

“The opening of a new store would also create a couple of hundred local jobs while regenerating the town centre.

“This would be a huge boost and I’m very much looking forward to the final decision being taken.”

Depute Leader of Midlothian Council Owen Thompson (SNP) has also welcomed the latest development: “When we are looking to regenerate Dalkieth this has to be a massive boost in bringing more people into the town centre.

“There is a lot of evidence to suggest that people who would do their shopping at the new store would also visit other shops, and so the amount of traffic footfall that this would bring into the town would benefit a number of local businesses.

“Even if it’s only one in three or four who visit the butchers because they don’t fancy the one in the supermarket, that is custom that would otherwise have gone elsewhere. There are a lot of potential knock-on benefits.”

Local resident Neil Hynd, who is a member of Dalkeith Community Council, said: “This will be great for Dalkeith. Tesco has ruled the roost for too long now and there has been no competition. In the past there were loads of stores in the town but now you can hardly buy anything.”

Sainsbury’s withdrew its long-standing interest in the bus depot site in July, leaving shoppers with a choice of buying their groceries from smaller town centre stores or the closest out-of-town supermarket, Tesco at Hardengreen.

In August, the Advertiser ran an online poll asking “With Sainsburys dropping its plans for the former bus depot site, would you like to see a supermarket there?”

The results saw 81 (72 per cent) vote ‘yes’ while 32 (28 per cent) were content with a Lidl and Tesco nearby.

The new deal, between site owner Forrest Developments and Morrisons is currently being finalised. It is understood that the supermarket giant hopes to submit a planning application to the council in January.

When contacted by the Advertiser, neither company was preparted to comment.