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Dobbies accused of breaching planning approval

West Lothian Council served notice on garden centre for selling six time the retail goods planning allowed

A garden centre chain has been accused of breaching planning regulations for selling too many goods unrelated to garden centre retail. The Dobbies in Livingston, West Lothian, was served with a planning contravention notice (PCN) just a fortnight after it opened in March this year.

The local council said the £8 million outlet, which created 120 jobs, was selling six times more retail goods than had been initially agreed.

Lasswade-based Dobbies, which is owned by Tesco, had its initial planning application for the store turned down in December 2010. West Lothian Council voted eight-to-one against the development, believing it would have a negative impact on local businesses.

However an appeal to Scottish Ministers got the plan passed though several strict conditions were imposed including keeping non-garden centre retail goods to 10 per cent of the floorspace.

West Lothian Council issued a PCN on March 31 this year which alleged Dobbies had breached the retail conditions and raised other issues such as plans to install a car wash and move the kitchen area.

Dobbies were supposed to reply within 21 days but West Lothian Council has refused to reveal the outcome of the probe and claim no conclusion has yet been reached.

A spokesperson for West Lothian Council said: "WLC carried out an initial assessment prior to serving the PCN which concluded that, in the councils view, the limit on the selling of non-garden related goods was likely to be being breached.

"A resolution to the suspected breach of planning control at the site has not reached its conclusion so, to date, there is no outcome."

However in June Dobbies filed a retrospective planning application for the car parking and kitchen issues.

The company has also paid for property agency GVA Grimley to do an independent assessment which suggested the retail conditions were not being breached.

James Barnes, Dobbies chief executive, hopes the other issue can be resolved soon.

He said: "We don't believe we are in breach of planning, and we are very keen to meet the council to take them through it all to help them to understand what we are doing.

"The council have indicated the goods we are selling are outwith the planning condition we signed up to, and they are entitled to suggest that.

"We are of a very firm opinion that is not the case."

One source told Business7 there had been long standing worries over whether Dobbies would affect the sales of local firms.

The source said: "There was major concern about the impact Dobbies would have on local businesses which is why the restrictions on what non-garden items they could sell were imposed.

"To see them flouting the regulations like this is galling and the council don't seem to want to do anything about it."

Source : Scott McCulloch - Business

05 August 2011
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