Locals are being urged to oppose a planning application for a new Debenhams store at out of town retail park, Fort Kinnaird, by Resolution Property – the new owners of Ocean Terminal.
Resolution Property claim the department store’s plan to add a third Edinburgh store in Fort Kinnaird is a ” damaging threat… to the overall viability” of the Leith shopping centre. Of course, Debenhams is currently one of the key “anchor” tenants at Ocean Terminal.
The new Fort Kinnaird Debenhams proposal follows a recent decision by councillors to green light a new multi-screen cinema there, even though planners recommended refusal.
Resolution also objected to this application on the basis that it would compete with the Ocean Terminal Vue cinema.
In the recent email sent to Leith community councils the planning consultants acting on behalf of Resolution Property warn that a “damaging threat has now emerged to Ocean Terminal, with the recent submission by Fort Kinnaird of a planning application for a new Debenhams department store.
“If permitted, in combination with the cinema, this presents a genuine threat to the overall viability of Ocean Terminal, as the latter will no longer be the destination of choice for many of its current visitors.
“This is likely to lead to a spiral of decline for the centre as existing and prospective tenants reconsider their locational options. Trade and investment will therefore decline, being displaced to other parts of Edinburgh. We believe that such a decline will have a negative impact on Leith as a whole.”
Aside from the bizarre spectacle of a property firm lobbying against the expansion plans of one of its own prime tenants, it’s certainly true that Ocean Terminal is a big local employer – although there is of course no data on the impact that Ocean Terminal itself has had on investment in the other main shopping centres of Leith.
What is widely acknowledged is that all out of town shopping centres tend to suck activity, vitality and investment out of existing retail areas. That’s why there are numerous planning policies designed to try to contain them. Sadly, our local councillors don’t have a good track record of implementing these policies.
Fort Kinnaird is already the largest out of town retail centre in Edinburgh, and indeed it is one of the largest in the UK. And planners have already set limits on the type and scale of development that they believe acceptable there.
However, as councillors seem so biddable by the promise of “new” retail jobs in these parks – they seem to have encouraged the owners of Fort Kinnaird to wage a war of attrition with planning officials.
The latest Fort Kinnaird application claims that the Debenhams plan is part of a “three store expansion strategy from the department store” that will create a further 200 jobs.
The big question is that is never answered in these planning applications is how many jobs might be lost at Ocean Terminal, or indeed elsewhere in the city if these giant out of town retail parks are allowed to slowly go on expanding?
And perhaps an even bigger worry for many Leithers: How will we all get hold of the “Look of Leith” if Ocean Terminal really does enter into a fatal “spiral of decline?”
You can find out more detail about the planning application, and post an objection if you are inclined to wade into the big box store wars, on the council website here.
Photo credit: The Warm Shoots