There was mirth and anger in equal measures when Falkirk Council debated the Local Plan proposals for the Western Gateway site at Camelon.
The SNP had proposed a mixed use development at the Camelon site in the draft local plan agreed by the previous SNP led Administration. This would have provided for a development of up to 10,000 square feet of retail with the remainder of the site earmarked for industry and commerce.
However, the Labour Tory Alliance sought to remove the restriction of the square footage of retail thus undermining the long term sustainability of the neighbouring Alexander Dennis site and effectively giving Tesco a free hand in Camelon.
Local Labour Councillor, Gerry Goldie, a long term supporter of Tesco at any cost, raised mirth and anger in equal numbers when he accused the SNP of raising fears that Tesco were planning an 80,000 square foot superstore at the site.
It was pointed out to laughter throughout the chamber that the only previous application submitted by Tesco for the site was for an 80,000 square foot store and Mr Goldie’s support for that application was well documented.
There were also gasps when Goldie claimed that it was not for the council to set a limit on the ambitions of Tesco before being advised by Planning Director, Rhona Geisler, that it was his statutory duty as a Councillor to do exactly that.
Despite evidence that giving Tesco a free hand would create congestion and undermine the regeneration of Stenhousemuir and Denny Town Centres, advice based on Tesco’s own documentation, Labour, Tory and Independent Councillors voted to write Tesco a blank cheque.
Falkirk South SNP Councillor, Georgie Thomson said,
“The people of Camelon want a balanced development that creates opportunities for improvement locally.
What they don’t want is a development that will create congestion in our already congested street nor a local representative who for his own reasons appears to be interested in providing only one company with development opportunities.
The SNP provided the balance the people of Camelon want, Labour want only checkouts and congestion and that is not acceptable.
However, perhaps more worrying are the comments of Gerry Goldie. It is obvious from his comments that he is either ignorant of what Tesco’s agenda is or he is seriously misleading the people of Camelon.
Whether it is ignorance or political manoeuvring Gerry Goldie is letting the people of Camelon down.”