Portobello supermarket bid back on

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NEW plans for a "Waitrose-style" supermarket have been unveiled as part of a revised scheme for one of Edinburgh's biggest gap sites.

Edinburgh-based firm BL Developments had to go back to the drawing board after planners rejected its 100-million plans for the former Scottish Power site off Portobello High Street earlier this year.

It has now scaled back the housing element of the plans by around 15 per cent.

And it has introduced a "smaller food store" that it said is needed to make the scheme stack up financially.

But local representatives have vowed to fight the retail plans.

News that the site will include a food store - expected to be either Edinburgh's third Waitrose or a new Marks & Spencer 'Simply Food' outlet - comes seven years after previous site owner Duddingston House Properties unveiled plans for a massive supermarket, which was eventually rejected after a public inquiry.

BL managing director, Philip Myerscough, said: "We've reduced the amount of housing and the height of the buildings, particularly the one on Portobello High Street. The feedback that we've got from the public open day was that the changes made have addressed the principal concerns expressed by the community that the building was too high in places and that there were too many residential units. The value lost through reducing the number of houses we've had to claw back and we're doing that by bringing in a Waitrose-style food store.

"We know that there is a lot of interest because the agents tell us that all the food store operators are interested in this area with the exception of Asda, which is already represented nearby. Any operator needs to complement the existing retail in Portobello, which is why we're going for a Waitrose/M&S-style rather than a small Tesco as it would sit better with the existing retail and would draw more people to Portobello."

The new proposal includes between 600 and 650 homes, mainly flats, with shops along Portobello High Street including the food store, which will be around 15,000 square feet - slightly smaller than the Waitrose in Morningside. Plans also include artist studios, health and welfare facilities, a public open square, community garden and nursery facilities.

A full planning application is expected within months and Mr Myerscough admitted that there is pressure on him to get a scheme approved - or sell the site on to another company, likely to be a major supermarket developer. But local councillor Stephen Hawkins, who campaigned against the original plans for a supermarket, said: "Five years ago people opposed vociferously any form of supermarket and the draft design guide people worked on for several months said they would be happy with minor retail - such as a convenience store - not major retail. It is exceptionally important that we get the right development there and that it strengthens the town, not detracts from it."