BY LISA FALCONER
Portree is one step closer to a new supermarket after Highland Council this week approved plans for a development in the Skye village.
The plans — submitted by developers Rubicon Land Ltd and Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association — are for a 36,000-square feet supermarket around double the size of the Co-op on Dunvegan Road.
Council officials had previously recommended approval of the project but it, along with a rival application by developers Oatridge Ltd for a nearby site, were deferred by the planning committee in September.
However, several councillors – including Skye’s John Gordon – then asked for the Rubicon development to be reconsidered by the planning, development and infrastructure committee when it met yesterday (Wednesday). After discussion, the application was unanimously approved.
Addressing the meeting, Councillor Gordon said: “There was dismay about why this wasn’t passed (previously) by planning, and anger locally. We have two supermarkets in our village but there is no competition, over 40 (grocery) vans a week are coming to the island. People are limited on choice, penalised on price.”
Lachie MacDonald, chief executive of Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association, said: “We are very pleased that the plans have been approved. It was a surprise it was deferred before but the extra information we supplied met the requirements and we are very pleased with the unanimous decision.
“The challenge now is to attract a supermarket to develop the site. Hopefully we will see movement soon. Until you have planning consent supermarkets are not interested in taking forward proposals, so only now can serious talks be held and Rubicon will be actively taking that forward.”
Colin Taylor of Rubicon Land said: “We are extremely pleased at the approval of our planning application for a new supermarket in Portree by the PDI Committee, and can now start work in earnest in attracting a new retailer to the town. Getting commitment from a supermarket operator has been difficult due to the confused planning picture in the town. The decision today sends out a clear and unambiguous signal to operators that the Portree community does indeed want a supermarket, and this is the site for it.
“It’s well known that the supermarket industry is in turmoil at the moment and Portree is not immune to that. However, Rubicon Land are experts in retail development and are currently involved in seven supermarket projects throughout Scotland. We are in regular contact with all the major players in the industry and are confident that as long as the planning picture is not further complicated by additional consents being granted, we will be successful in bringing a major new retailer to the town.
He added: “We are acutely aware of how much the Portree community wants greater choice and competition and we will be working very hard to deliver this as swiftly as we can.”