EAST Dunbartonshire Council has deferred its decision on whether to approve plans to redevelop the Bishopbriggs branch of B&Q, creating space for possible entertainment venues.

Caledonian Property Investments is seeking planning permission to sub-divide the existing store to create two new retail units while B&Q would continue to occupy the remaining part of the current building as well as a new garden centre on the site of the existing building yard, and the creation of an additional two shops or leisure venues (such as a cinema or music venue) on the site presently occupied by B&Q’s garden centre.

The council’s planning committee heard a report on the proposals which recommended refusal, on the basis that the development could potentially be harmful to town centre retailers, contravening national and local policy, while also changing the primary role of the retail park.

During consideration of the application councillor Alix Mathieson (Conservative, Milngavie) asked how the possible opening of an entertainment venue such as a cinema could be detrimental to the town centre when no equivalent venues exist.

She was advised that the usage class of the proposed buildings included a variety of uses beyond just cinemas. The developer had indicated that one of the buildings would possibly become a gym, and that the reasons for refusal provided were also to preserve the current role of the retail park.

Planning officers also suggested that with some restaurants already in the retail park the possible addition of leisure services could further impact the viability of the town centre.

Councillor Mathieson also asked if B&Q was likely to close its unit if this proposal was refused and planning officers replied that there was nothing in the application to indicate this, although clearly it would prefer if this development went ahead.

Councillor Calum Smith (SNP, Bearsden North) asked about differences in the impact assessments carried out in relation to this application by the council and planning consultants, with the consultant forecasting a much larger effect on the town centre, and if it was possible to clarify this.

This was attributed to differing perceptions of existing shopping patterns and the possible effect of trade diversion, especially on the number of visitors who would be attracted from Bearsden and Milngavie.

Councillor Mathieson later said that people from those towns mainly travelled to the retail park to shop in B&Q already, although they may also visit the food retailers, but it would be rare for them to go to the town centre, but she was advised that the forecasts were about the effect of the new units.

Councillor Lynda Williamson (SNP, Bishopbriggs North and Campsie) said that the retail park already had a number of grocery retailers and asked how one more could make such a big difference to the town centre, and was advised that the consultant felt the additional impact would move the retail park further away from its intended purpose in contravention of planning policy.

Council leader Gordan Low (SNP, Bishopbriggs South) said that if one of the units did indeed become a gym this would have very little impact on the night-time economy of the area and asked if the existing local plan already recommended more suitable locations for cinemas and other entertainment venues. It was confirmed that there are no other sites available in Bishopbriggs that could accept such a development, but this did not alleviate the concerns over this application.

Councillor Williamson moved that the planning board was minded to grant the application, but this would be deferred until its next meeting to allow an additional report to be prepared spelling out the conditions that should be imposed, as well as the terms of a Section 75 legal agreement between the council and the developer in order to mitigate the impact on the town centre.

This was agreed unanimously.