Sainsbury's sets sights on city store
Retail giant Sainsbury’s is looking to open a new superstore in Inverness.
It has confirmed it is "in discussion" with several competing developers, each hoping to win the contract.
A definite deal has not been struck, but bosses are understood to have expressed interest in a number of sites across the city — including one at Stratton to the east of Inverness.
Sainsbury’s said any new store would not impact on its £20 million outlet in Nairn, which opened four years ago, and confirmed that it was considering several sites in Inverness.
A spokesman said: "We would like to be in Inverness, as the Nairn store is doing really well.
"There have been discussions in the past and continue to be, including with developers at Stratton.
"We are certainly interested (in Stratton) but that could be said of discussions with any developers at any site we may be considering.
"Inverness is a city we would like to have a presence in, but we won’t make a decision until we have found the appropriate site with the right developers."
Developer Inverness Estates is behind the plans for a new town at Stratton, which will ultimately include thousands of new houses, a school, a large supermarket and a park-and-ride.
Highland Council’s south area planning committee last week gave Inverness Estates permission to re-order the phases of construction at the new town — controversially allowing it to erect the supermarket before a single home is built. A full planning application would still need to be submitted and passed first.
Inverness Estates was unavailable for comment when contacted this week.
Smithton and Culloden Com-munity Council covers the Stratton area. Its chairman David McGrath believes discussions have been taking place for some time.
He said: "Sainsbury’s has been fishing around there for a while and I think Inshes Retail Park was also considered but was ruled out due to access problems in the early stages. The problem with Stratton is that there simply is not the money to build the houses and get everything up and running, including the park and ride.
"These things were promised to us when the developers were originally granted permission but there is no money for any of it.
"The plan now is to get Sainsbury’s to pay for the park and ride, it is not so much the store I have a problem with but the development in itself.
"There just isn’t the infrastructure and the supermarket was meant to be built at the very end, not the beginning."
Councillor Richard Laird objected to the re-ordering of construction phases at Stratton when the south area planning committee met last week. Yesterday he said he was not surprised by the news that Sainsbury’s was exploring possible sites in Inverness.
"I have heard talk of Sainsbury’s and I cannot say I am surprised. As I have said previously, I do not have a problem with supermarkets. What I really object to is a supermarket built in isolation with no existing community around it, because we simply do not need yet another site like this."