CONCERNS that a major supermarket could open on the site of an old city theatre have increased, after city planners approved the site’s use for retail.
The council’s planning committee granted approval for a retail outlet to open at the former Theatre Workshop building in Hamilton Place, Stockbridge, despite objections from the area’s community council and the Theatres Trust.
Tesco has denied rumours it intends to open an outlet at the location, but the size of the site at 222 sq m has led to concerns that it will be snapped up by one of the major supermarkets.
Two Scotmid and Sainsbury’s outlets already exist around Stockbridge, raising fears a Tesco Express store – averaging about 200sq m – would be an ideal fit.
Six luxury apartments are already set to be built at the theatre site under plans by developer Chris Stewart Group. The company has previously been granted permission for a restaurant to be part of the venue’s transformation.
Stockbridge/Inverleith Community Council chairman Stephen Brennan said he feared for the future of independent retailers if another supermarket came to the area.
He said: “Stockbridge has a village feel in terms of retail and the concern is that if we get more units of that size – effectively you’re talking supermarkets – it’s going to put your little retailers out of business.
“We’d rather have a variety of shops than a homogenous mass of supermarkets from one end of Stockbridge to the other.”
The theatre, which opened in 1975, was a mainstay of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for many years.
The venue shut three years ago after the bulk of public funding was cut, with the B-listed building subsequently put up for sale by the council.
Lothian MSP Sarah Boyack said she was sympathetic to local concerns, adding: “We’ve already got two Scotmids and two Sainsbury’s in the area and a lot of very good small retailers. A major supermarket in this area would have a negative impact on them, but it would also be a problem in terms of the street. It’s one of the most congested streets in the area, and there isn’t space for the kind of servicing vehicles that would be needed.”
A Tesco spokeswoman said the company had no plans to set up an outlet at the site, but added she could not rule out the future possibility.
The Chris Stewart Group’s chief executive, Chris Stewart, said: “The flexibility to create retail space or a restaurant in the site of the former theatre will ensure that the space is put to best use for the local community.”