The operators of the Fife Central Retail Park had hoped to redevelop the former Homebase store and divide it in to five smaller units, a move that was thrown out by members of Fife Council’s central area planning committee.

Councillors expressed widespread concern over the move by retail park operators Hammerson, who believed that it would significantly impact on town centres in Kirkcaldy, Glenrothes and Leven.

Councillor Ross Vettraino was one of those who voted against the proposal, and whilst acknowledging that the committee’s decision could be overturned at appeal, said that a failure to refuse the plans could be catastrophic on traditional shopping precincts.

Saying that there would be “no doubt” about the impact on Central Fife’s town centres, he added: “I would like to be optimistic but I think that this would be the final nail in the coffin for them.

“If we were to approve it we would be consigning a further reduction in footfall on our town centres.

“I feel that if we don’t stand in the way of this development it will further damage commercial centres in Fife.”

Hammerson’s proposals would have allowed for the creation of five new stores within the large unit vacated last year by DIY retailer Homebase.

The application follows the recent opening of a Marks and Spencer food store and Scotland’s largest Next outlet, both of which have helped the retail park establish itself as a hugely popular shopping destination within the region.

However, these have been approved amidst a backdrop of concern for local town centres, which have struggled to compete in recent years.

The application was not unanimously rejected, however, with Glenrothes councillor Bill Brown stating his belief that shoppers wanted more choice within Fife.

He said: “I think Central Fife needs more good shops.

“People at the moment are going to Dunfermline, Dundee or Edinburgh.

“I believe that the more quality shops that we have, the more people we will attract and stop them from going out of the area.”

A representative for Hammerson did not wish to comment following yesterday’s decision.

Source: The Courier

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