Concerned Ballater residents have slammed what they deem a lack of public consultation on “the biggest decision in the village for a decade”, writes Jon Hebditch.
Villagers Phil Swan and Tony Cox say that the proposal to close the two Co-Op stores and merge them into one larger unit at the site of the current Ballater bus depot has divided the settlement of 1,500 and have called for a public meeting to be held.
It has been a long running issue in the village with it being tabled in 2006.
Aberdeenshire Council handed over the planning proposal to the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) who are now handling the application.
The Ballater and Crathie Community Council (B&CCC) has been consulted.
Their decision to support the application led to Mr Swan resigning from the group.
The Ballater Business Association was also consulted, with the group raising concerns about the application.
The new Co-op store would be around 5,500 square feet. Staff from the two current stores would be retained and an additional ten jobs created.
Objectors have pointed to a possible lack of parking at the new site and the creation of vacant shop units in the village as the original Co-Ops close amongst other issues.
Mr Swan said: “The underlying issue for me is the lack of public accountability... There is a total lack of transparency here, this is the biggest thing that has happened in Ballater for years so let’s have a proper public debate about it... I’ve looked into other local applications and there hasn’t been this level of oppostiion since 2010.
“A meeting was held on it in 2008 with only two days notice, I handed out leaflets and 150 people turned up so it shows that people in the village care and want to be consulted.”
Another issue was the sale of a field (rumoured to be the replacement site for the bus deopt) at the Craigview/Pannaich Roads which they say the community has also been kept in the dark over.
Mr Cox said: “We know the land is now under offer but we haven’t the vaguest notion of who the offer is being made by or what the intended use is. Rumour has it that Stagecoach is the preferred buyer but we have no way of knowing that.”
Mr Swan added: “The whole thing stinks.”
A spokesperson for the CNPA said: “: “This application has been subject to the normal consultation procedures, including consultation with the Ballater and Crathie Community Council... There is no requirement under the legislation... to organise a public meeting.”