I recently conducted a survey of constituents who live in Bishopbriggs on the redevelopment of the town centre, in particular, the applications recently submitted by Morrisons for a new store and a petrol station. 103 people completed the survey, and I have passed on the following results to the Council, who are currently considering the application:
Town centre concerns
40% of respondents felt that the town centre at the moment was acceptable. 35% felt it was ‘poor’. This clearly suggests some appetite for change, regardless of what people feel about the applications in question. Reasons given for this included:
- The bias towards traffic, rather than pedestrians, and the problems with congestion
- Lack of a variety of retailers
- Some people mentioned the town ‘lacks character’
I feel that the Council should consider that the plans on the table will not necessarily address the dissatisfaction with the town centre felt by a significant minority of residents. Many of the concerns I have had put to me suggest people are worried that the new store is primarily aimed at car users, most of whom will not come to the town centre to use the other shops and facilities. The store is considerably further from the town centre than the current one, and there is a real danger it will impact on the vitality of the existing centre of Bishopbriggs. There is also a real worry that we could be left with a significant empty store in the town centre where the current Morrisons is. Whatever the outcome of these planning applications, the economic development department needs to work hard to address the issues raised about around the variety of retailers in the town centre and its vibrancy.
Morrison’s plans – store and town centre
When asked if they support the plans for the new Morrison’s store, 18% did not express a view either way. Of those who did, the majority were against (55%) but opinion was clearly divided with 45% in favour.
The reasons people gave in favour were:
- The plans allow for an increase in retail capacity and funding for a community hub
- The empty land is an eyesore
- Need for a better supermarket
- It will improve competition in the town
The reasons people gave against the proposed new store included:
- The store is far too big for the area, and will significantly change the character of the town
- Significant increase in traffic, especially concerning given current air pollution problems in Bishopbriggs
- The development is too far from the town centre
- We already have a large supermarket, and the space should be used for recreation or new businesses.
- There will be a significant impact on those businesses already in the town centre.
- This is not a plan for a town centre, this is a plan for a supermarket.
Although opposition to the plans was not overwhelming, there were some extremely strong concerns raised. If the plans were approved, many of these issues would need to be addressed in the decision, perhaps through conditions. I asked about changed individuals would like to see that could address concerns. Predictably, residents were keen to know more about the environmental impact of the plans, and for a more comprehensive traffic plan. Another question in the survey revealed that 59% of people were ‘very concerned’ about levels of traffic in the town already. A popular suggestion was for Morrison’s to close the South Crosshill Road entrance to the site, given the significant impact this will have on what is currently a residential area.
On the issue of the petrol station, only 13% declining to express a view. 57% of people who did were against the petrol station, with 43% in favour. Supporters welcomed an expected reduction in fuel costs, while critics argued that it was unnecessary, would increase traffic problems and proximity to horses schools and nurseries made the location unsuitable.
Retail & leisure wish list
I asked, in the event that the application is passed, what shops or amenities residents would like to see in the ‘retail and leisure space’. There was a strong sense, amongst those who responded, that they would like to use this as an opportunity to encourage more independent, specialist and ‘quality’ shops to the town centre, which would make the area more of a ‘destination’. Another strong suggestion was for there to be a central square focal point, with benches and a children’s play area. Other responses included: a meeting a club hire space; a venue that provides internet facilities; some indoor sports facilities (particularly given the loss of the sports hall several years ago); a local market and a decent coffee shop to provide a meeting point. Some chains mentioned included Starbucks, McDonald’s, Costa Coffee and M&S.
- Distance: When asked about whether the new store is an acceptable distance from the road, around 20% of participants has no view either way. Of those who did have a view, 68% felt it was an acceptable distance, and 32% did not. This perhaps suggests that there are not as many concerns about this as was initially thought.
- Young people: 89% of those who responded felt that there was simply not enough for young people to do in East Dunbartonshire. When asked how this could be resolved, suggestions included better sports facilities, a play park and a cinema. Mindful of the campaign to establish a skate park in the town, I asked for residents’ views. Of those who answered, more than two thirds of people felt this was a good idea.
Overall, there is clear support for a more diverse retail offer and community facilities in Bishopbriggs town centre. However, there are clearly concerns about this application which, if approved, will shape our town centre for generations. It is vital that the Council ensure that any development is done well with the needs of Bishopbriggs, rather than a supermarket chain, at the forefront.