Concerned residents campaigning to block plans to create a Co-op food store in Comrie have presented a 850-signature petition to the firm’s management.
The document was handed to John Kelly, a regional operations manager for Co-operative Group, on Wednesday last week.
It attracted a total of 848 signatures within one month. More than 80 per cent of the people who signed the document live in either Comrie or Crieff.
Organisers have also said that almost one third of the people who showed their support for the campaign were members of the Co-op.
During the meeting in Bumblebee Square, residents took the opportunity emphasise some of the key messages contained within the petition, namely that they felt the plans for a Co-op store would not only spoil Bumblebee Square but also damage Comrie’s existing retailer.
The deputation also asked Mr Kelly to ensure that the petition results and the requests of the petitioners be brought to the attention of the Co-op regional board.
Comrie resident and Co-op member Andrew Thompson – who handed the petition over to Mr Kelly – said: “I decided to start the petition after fears were raised about the Co-op’s plans.
“It was clear from a subsequent public meeting that the community was solidly opposed to plans to develop Bumblebee Square, and were particularly concerned about the damage to community life and vitality, which would result from development of an overly large supermarket-style convenience store, without adequate parking provision.
“I thought that a petition directed at the Co-op would be a good way to get across the message about the community’s strong feelings and well-reasoned arguments against their plan.
“With the level of support the petition has attracted within the village, and particularly the number of Co-op members who have signed, I hope that the petition will send a very loud message to the Co-op causing them to reflect on their ethical standards, and claims to be supportive of communities.
“If they do this, and look at the evidence we have presented to them, then I would fully expect them to withdraw their plans and disassociate themselves from the proposed development.”
Felicity Martin, another locally-based Co-op member who was present at the handover, added: “Comrie simply does not need or want a retail development of this scale anywhere in the village. The idea that the Co-op, of all people, would be associated with the loss of Bumblebee Square, our valued community garden and social hub, simply adds insult to injury.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Co-op said: “A small convenience store is just one element of the proposals from the developers Braemore Estates, who own the land.
“As a community retailer, the opinions of local people are important to us, but we believe that if a store is built at the site then a Co-operative food outlet, creating around 15 jobs, would be an asset for the village.”
Local charity Friends of Bumblebee Square has been trying to raise money to purchase the Square since it was loaned to them for an indefinite period by landowner William Frame, of Braemore Estates, in 2010.
A planning application for the proposed development is yet to be submitted to Perth and Kinross Council .