Disappointed campaigners say long-awaited plans to develop an eyesore will leave Alexandria town center “like a housing estate”.
Janice Ross of the Vale of Leven Trust has warned that history is repeating itself, after long-awaited plans for 25 new flats and a Lidl store were submitted to West Dunbartonshire Council’s planning
She feels the views of residents have been ignored as there are no additional shop units, leading to fears that the plans will drive more people away from the Main Street.
The application is for a range of one and two-bedroom flats in a four-storey development, a new Lidl supermarket and car parking.
Glenesk Homes will work with Lidl on the development if the plans are given the green light.
However, Janice hopes that councilors will think long and hard about the long-term impact of the proposals, which she fears could lead to the Vale being left with another white elephant in years to come.
She told the Lennox: “I’m concerned about it on a range of levels.
“It feels like this is the ‘anything’s better than nothing’ approach, but actually I think we need to be careful not to sell ourselves to the devil.
“The people who live here will be left with it for the next 45 years until it all falls down again. It’s history repeating itself.
“I understand people’s frustration that we have a town center that looks awful. I get that.
“But are we jumping out the frying pan into the fire here?
“The buildings on Mitchell Way will be demolished anyway, the council have committed to that, but we are so desperate to get rid of them that we’ll take anything. Anything could end up far worse in the long term.
“My main issue is that this turns Alexandria into a housing estate – the heart of the Vale would be a housing estate.
“We had issues with the Mitchell Way flats in the past, nobody would move into them.
“Why are we not learning from that?”
Janice continued: “We want a thriving, robust, economically beneficial town center.
“It feels like Lidl are being allowed to do what they want.
“The regeneration committee advised them to bring the store front onto Mitchell Way. Lidl have ignored that.
“My main concern is that in every consultation in the past seven years people have said they want more retail.
“This development was originally planned to bring 10 retail units. They then cut that down to four units, and now it’s been taken away completely.”
And Janice fears that changes to car parking will also have a negative impact.
She added: “When you look at the plans they are putting in car parking that won’t make a difference.
“They put a 90-minute time limit on the car park.
“They are then taking away the car parking that exists behind Mitchell Way, and these are being replaced with 13 car parking spaces for 25 flats.
“They are limiting the opportunities for shopping in this town. They are limiting residents’ opportunities to park their cars.
“People have told us specifically that they want a town center for shopping.
“It feels like there is no economic strategy for developing a town center in the Vale of Leven. This is incredibly disappointing.”
Leven Councillor Jim Bollan shares the Vale of Leven Trust’s concerns that proposals to regenerate Mitchell Way aren’t what is needed to breathe new life into Alexandria.
The Community Party member welcomed Lidl’s development moving to the next stage, but outlined his concerns about the plans submitted.
He said: “While I welcome the principle of the development in Mitchell Way by Lidl, they have failed to listen to the real concerns I and others have about the location of the store on the site.
“One of the benefits of having this development needs to be to increase footfall directly on to Mitchell Way and Main Street where many small shops and local businesses are located.
“The new store needs to face directly onto Mitchell Way with the new car park at the rear.
“Lidl need to get round the table with our planners and come up with a solution to make this happen or this development will not work for the whole of the town center as was envisaged.”
Last year we told how the Lidl development was key to a masterplan which aimed to regenerate the Vale.
The masterplan, which was approved by West Dunbartonshire councillors last year, aims to overhaul the rundown Main Street, transform the crumbling Mitchell Way and refurbish the Smollett Fountain.
A spokeswoman for Lidl said: “We are delighted to have submitted plans to bring a new Lidl store to Alexandria.
“If granted, this would mark a multi-million pound investment in the area and the creation of around 40 new full and part-time jobs for the local community when the store
“We look forward to receiving a decision in due course.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.