SCORES of residents turned out to make their voices heard at a meeting tackling the issue of a second supermarket in Stonehaven last week.
Up to 200 people attended the meeting, which was held last Thursday by the town’s community council in Mackie Academy.
The community council has carried out a comprehensive survey of possible sites in the area and is seeking feedback from residents before submitting its views to Aberdeenshire Council.
It emerged that most of those present supported the idea of a second store, however a consensus on the best place to build it remained elusive.
Presentations were given by community council members Allan Sutherland and Andrew Newton, as well as former supermarket executive and senior lecturer at Robert Gordon University, Andrew Turnbull.
The community council has looked at various sites which have been touted for a supermarket, both past and present, and compiled a list of pros and cons about each including East Newtonleys, Spurryhillock, Field 52, New Mains of Ury and the recreation grounds.
Mr Turnbull, who stressed he had no agenda to push, said he believed that Tesco, Sainsburys and Waitrose were the most likely competitors to try and establish a store in the town due to various factors and said that there a supermarket could bring both positive and negative aspects to a town.
He advised: “You need ingenuity to maintain the town’s identity. Too often independent traders lack the required vision and skill to survive against a supermarket.”
Mr Turnbull added: “Do not settle for anything because you want something. Do not settle for second best.”
One resident said: “I think people in this town do want a big supermarket but they want it to be in the right place and the right size. Let’s think very carefully about this – this meeting has been great for focusing our thoughts. There has to be some sort of compromise along the way.”
One woman added: “I would strongly object to any supermarket on the green space in the town – we have to think of our young people. We do need these playing fields, this is where our youngsters play football – we are not going to give up places like Mineralwell Park for a supermarket.”
Another said: “I think the main thing of having a supermarket in Stonehaven is the impact it is going to have on the other businesses in the town. I do not want to see Stonehaven town centre change into a ghost town, that to me is the most important thing.
“Yes, have a supermarket, but there has to be a lot of thought and a lot of sensitivity going into it.”
Other locals present questioned the current quality of shops in Stonehaven town centre, which chairman of the town’s Business Association George McGillivray tried to combat.
He said: “I don’t think people appreciate the quality of shops in the centre of Stonehaven.”
Inverurie was held up as a successful model to maintaining a thriving town centre despite having a supermarket, but Mr McGillivray said that some of the shops in the North-east town were struggling.
Sarah Wright, a spokeswoman for Sainsburys, was also present at the meeting.
She said: “We still have a very real and active interest in coming to Stonehaven. We were very disappointed when the Field 52 site did not happen because of the AWPR, but we are looking to bring a store to your community and we are looking at alternative sites.
“What we do not want to compromise on is a site that doesn’t work and which doesn’t bring you what you want as a community.”
Local MSP Nigel Don said: “This was a very interesting evening and I congratulate the speakers on the quality of their presentations, and community council chair David Fleming on his handling of the meeting.
“It was obvious from the audience reaction that there is a strong desire to have another supermarket in the area, but it was also very clear that there is no ideal location for one to be built. Compromise will undoubtedly be required, which is why it is so important that there is continuing public discussion.”
Chairman of the community council David Fleming said: “We haven’t got an ideal site in Stonehaven. Any site that is agreed, if one is agreed, is by definition going to be a compromise. We need to make sure that we know what the community want.
“What I’m very anxious about as the community council chairman is that the community states very clearly what it wants and we put it to the people who are able do something about it.
“I’m very pleased with the very high turnout and the quality of the information that was exchanged. This meeting has given the community council a great deal of material for thought and for mapping out the way forward.”