A leading discount retailer was asked to clarify whether local stores were at risk in plans to open a substantial new offering at Straiton Retail Park.
Fears were raised by Midlothian Council in January, that B&M Bargains could plan to close their Penicuik and Dalkeith anchor stores as part of their move into the Peel Group’s Straiton Retail Park.
B&M Bargains, who have operated in the largest unit within Penicuik’s Town Centre since the demise of Somerfield in 2011, submitted an application last year to open a new store in unit four and five on the park’s lower tier. The units have long lain vacant since Next and Brantano vacated.
Permission was sought by B&M to sell convenience goods from the new Straiton discount supermarket, a move that requires council approval to protect local town centres. However, planning officials raised concerns that the move to a prominent large unit in the county’s only retail park could result in the closure of the company’s two smaller operations in Penicuik Dalkeith. Mhairi-Anne Cowie of Midlothian Council’s planning team said in a letter to the applicant:
It is not clear if the provision of an element of convenience shopping is essential for the B&M business model, or if the development could proceed without it. B&M operates stores in Penicuik and Dalkeith. These stores act as important ‘anchors’ and their loss would adversely affect the vitality and viability of these centres. The proposed area of ‘re-assigned’ retail floorspace is well below the normal threshold for RIA, however it would be useful if you could clarify the trading performance of these stores, and whether the new store is intended to replace them.
In response to this questioning, and to receive planning permission, B&M Bargain’s Property Acquisition Manager stated:
There are no plans for either of the B&M stores at Dalkeith and Penicuik to be replaced by a new store at Straiton Retail Park.
This clarification by the company has now resulted in approval of the application by the council, allowing B&M Bargains to operate from unit four and five in the retail park, selling convenience goods in up to 20% of their floorspace. It is not yet known when the shop will open.
B&M Bargains is the anchor store of Penicuik’s Shopping Centre which was purchased by property developer Evolve Estates last year. It is believed to be the most profitable retail store within the centre, other than neighbouring discounter Lidl. Should it have closed as a result of the new opening at Straiton, the blow to the town’s often ailing economy could have been substantial.
Even with this clarification, fears still remain that both Penicuik and Dalkeith’s stores could be at risk, should the company downsize at a later date.
Some of the town’s largest retail units continue to lay vacant, despite moves by the owner to actively market them. The additional closure of Store Twenty One last year, has left many residents with no other option than having to commute to Straiton for goods other than food.
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