A last-gasp bid to stop Tesco getting a big extension to its Lerwick supermarket failed this week when only three councillors backed the call.
Councillor Jonathan Wills argued the 70 per cent increase in sales space would hit other businesses in town which went against SIC policies aimed at preserving the historic town centre. But head of planning Iain McDiarmid said his staff believed the town centre would not be affected to an unacceptable degree.
Dr Wills was not content and called for Tesco to be told to come back with new plans for a smaller extension. He said it was “weird and bizarre” to allow one shop to become so dominant that it would have over 50 per cent of the market in Shetland.
He won support from councillor Florence Grains whose concerns lay with rural shops which will have to survive yet more loss of trade to an enlarged Tesco. She said the shopkeepers had not been against the existing Tesco, only its expansion.
Councillor Rick Nickerson joined the anti-Tesco brigade, warning that the “predator” would use all sorts of marketing ploys, such as loss leaders, to take a share of the market. “The size of the cake in Shetland is what it is. The thinner you slice that there will be casualties.”
The three councillors lost out in a vote with 14 members voting to confirm Tesco’s planning permission. The company was given the green light in December but the decision had to be rubber-stamped by the Full Council on Wednesday as it breached council policy because a handful fewer car parking spaces are being provided than the rules stipulate.
During the debate councillor Laura Baisley argued that rural shops had lost a lot of trade because of the ease with which people can travel to town these days and if the council really wanted to help them it should pay a bit more attention to providing more work outside Lerwick. Then she rounded on shops in the town for poor standards, declaring that some needed to get their act together, become more competitive, make use of the internet and stop shutting at lunchtime. If they did that they might win a bit more trade.