THE loss of another shop in Selkirk is bad for the town, writes Kenny Paterson.
That is the view of Selkirk Community Council, which discussed on Monday a planning application to turn the former Jenny Muir fashion shop at 23 High Street into an office by David Heard, of Heard Hamilton Financial Planning.
While not opposing the bid, planning spokesman Iain King told Scottish Borders Council that Selkirk CC wishes to “express disappointment at the loss of another retail unit in the town”.
The community council were prompted into the move by a member of the public who raised concerns that less visitors will come to the Royal Burgh as a result of fewer shops, despite the £750,000 Historic Scotland grant to revamp the town centre.
He told Monday’s meeting: “It is the loss of a retail outlet. Jenny Muir’s was badly damaged because of sewage and was never let on the market as a shop. I know of two people who would have been interested (in reopening it as a shop).
“While I see little chance of the council overturning the change of use application, I think it should be made clear by the community council that the loss of a retail unit is not to be applauded.
“With the loss of another retail space, less people will come into the town.”
Selkirk previously had prime retail frontage protection but it was relaxed in 2007. The move, supported by former Selkirkshire councillor Carolyn Riddell-Carre, allowed businesses such as Scotbet and the County Hotel’s Italian restaurant La Contea to open in the town centre.
The Community Council had wished for the policy to remain in place, which would have meant if a retail business closed, another would replace it.
With the protection still in place, the change of use application at 23 High Street could not have gone ahead, and Selkirk CC secretary Alistair Pattullo refuted any suggestion the organisation had not put up a strong argument to retain the policy six years ago.
He said: “We fought tooth and nail to keep prime retail frontage but lost the battle with the councillor (Mrs Riddell-Carre) who wanted to get rid of it.”
Mr King added: “We can only deal with planning applications as they are submitted and within the (planning) framework.”
Chairman Graham Easton welcomed an empty shop being reopened and said: “There is less and less retail units in Selkirk but who is going to suddenly come in and make a fortune through retail just now?”