Councillors have given the go ahead to a controversial new supermarket development at the old council headquarters in Kirkintilloch.
This now paves the way for the sale of the site at Whitegates, which has been lying empty since the council moved to new premises at Southbank Marina.
Planning officials recommended refusing the application as it was contrary to the masterplan for the town and over fears that it would have a negative impact on the town centre economy.
But despite more than 160 written objections and in-person protests by local residents and traders at Tuesday night’s meeting, elected councillors voted by 10-8 in favour of the Sim Property (Whitegates) Ltd application to build a supermarket, petrol station, restaurant, day nursery and drive thru.
As yet there is no known client for the site, so it could be some time before the planning application turns into a reality. The planning application will also need to be referred to the Scottish Government for consideration, as East Dunbartonshire Council has a financial interest in the site.
One protestor Ian Thomson said he was ‘‘extremely disappointed’’ by the decision.
‘‘There was a volume of opposition - a groundswell of local opposition with only one in favour - and in spite of that the majority voted in favour of it.
‘‘I have to say I am extremely disappointed by the decision. They seemed to me to be happy to ignore the consequences for Kirkintilloch town centre and flying in the face of their own masterplan.’’
He added that the council’s masterplan had been doing good work in the town, but the decision last night was contrary to that.
He said his fear was that the Regent Centre - critical to Kirkintilloch - could be badly affected.
Angela McLaren, manager of the Regent Centre, said: ‘‘I think it is farcical that they have all the experts telling them not to do it and the elected members of the council chose to ignore it.
‘‘It’s terrible to think they are about to spend millions on the masterplan which I wholeheartedly believe in, it’s been a long time coming, but they are actively working against it. It is ludicrous.’’
She said the impact could be devastating for the town centre, but that the exact effects could not be gauged until it is known what supermarket will take up the site.
‘‘It is critical for the Regent Centre. Most of our long-term leases are coming up for renewal, if this goes ahead it might not give the companies confidence in the town centre.’’
The application said it was anticipated that 470 jobs would be created by any new development on site. However, there could be no net gain if jobs relocated from the town centre. It is also thought the new development could clawback £19million worth of trade which local people currently spend outside the town.