Stirling’s Business Improvement District (BID) has criticised plans to build an out-of-town retail park at a time when the city centre is “vulnerable” as it recovers from the pandemic.
Go Forth Stirling has lodged an objection to the proposed development near Springkerse on behalf of city centre traders saying it will severely impact the high street by drawing vital business away. Stirling Council planners are currently considering proposals for a mixed-use development, featuring offices, retail, a gym, drive-thru restaurants, car showroom and parking, at the Crookbridge site on Kerse Road.
Go Forth Stirling Project Director Danielle McRorie-Smith said: “We strongly object to this plan especially given Stirling City centre is vulnerable and needs time to recover from the pandemic. Traders have already battled pandemic restrictions and declining turnover due to online shopping and it is our view the overall health of any town or city centre is fragile and must be protected.
The proposal will severely impact the high street by drawing business away from the town centre and causing consequential job losses and I do not think Stirling will be able to withstand another out-of-town location.
There is a great deal of investment happening in the city centre in the coming years and positive steps are being taken to improve the trading environment and viability of the high street – this proposal will entirely contradict and undermine those investments and efforts.”
Ms McRorie-Smith also points out that current Stirling retail parks at Burghmuir and Springkerse, plus the Forthside Way development, are not yet fully occupied which questions the need for another location. And she says that while the developer estimates 450 jobs will be created at the park, its own Retail Impact Assessment notes this figure does not take account of jobs which will be lost elsewhere.
She said: “The figures come with the caveat that they do not take into account the effects of displacement – and unfortunately, it’s likely many of these jobs will only be making up for jobs lost in the town centre.”
Curly Coo bar owner Mandy Silver has also objected to the plans stating: “There are many vacant properties in Stirling city centre. In these difficult times, we should be working together to make the city centre a better place for people to visit, rather than building a new complex to take people out of the city.”
The proposal has also been questioned by Leigh Sparks, Professor of Retail Studies at the University of Stirling and Chair of Scotland’s Towns Partnership, who also chairs the Town Centre Action Plan Review Group. The group’s report – ‘A New Future for Scotland’s Town Centres’ – highlights the importance of Scotland’s towns and the need to strengthen them to ensure they are at the heart of the community.
He said: “This development is not what Stirling needs or wants. It is damaging and goes against the `town centre first’ principle by requiring people to travel out of town. One of the recommendations from the Town Centre Action Plan centres around stopping harm to town centres – this proposal would go against that by damaging the city centre and is something we need to stop doing.”
Commercial surveyor Gavin Russell also sees the proposal as contradicting the Town Centre Action Plan Review. He said: “As an agent with vacant properties in the city centre this is exactly the type of development the city does not need at present. It also flies in the face of the recommendations published by the Scottish Government recently following a review of the Town Centre Action Plan.”
Neil Stewart, who works with the Federation of Small Businesses, added: “Surely the council must reject this. You only need to look at the High Street in Falkirk to see how affected it was by allowing a retail park to be built across the road. It’s time to encourage people and businesses back to the high streets and to shop local.”
The retail park proposal, from Ramoyle Developments Ltd, can be found on Stirling Council’s planning portal.