CALLS have been made for East Lothian Council to do everything it can to ensure people are attracted to Haddington town centre when a new supermarket is eventually built.

Planning permission has been in place for a Sainsbury’s store to be built on the western edge of Haddington for more than four years.

Progress on the site, off West Road, has been slow and the town’s community councillors have challenged the local authority to make sure that there are measures in place to attract people into the town centre and use businesses there when the site is eventually developed.

In April, a spokeswoman for the supermarket giant was unable to put a timescale on the construction of the 3,700sq m store at Gateside West.

Currently, it is not on the list of stores planned for 2017-18, although the company is hoping to “progress the store within the next three years”.

The supermarket is part of one of several developments at the western edge of the town.

Houses are currently being built at Gateside, as well as on the site of the former Mitsubishi factory.

On the other side of West Road, plans for more than 800 new homes at Letham Mains also have the green light, although work is yet to start on the site.

Paul Darling, the community council’s planning liaison officer, said: “I still don’t think Sainsbury’s are going to come until the right number of houses are there.

“We might never get a Sainsbury’s there – they might end up selling the land to someone else.

“When they start building, we will need to think how we drag people back into the town centre.

“When they start to build outside the town, people will start to get sucked out.”

Mr Darling feared the eventual building of a supermarket on the former Oaktree Cafe site could see the floodgates opened to other out-of-town developments.

He said “a mini retail park” could get the go-ahead, mirroring towns like Dunbar, which has seen Asda, a garden centre, pub/hotel and McDonald’s restaurant created off the A1.

Judith Warren, chairwoman of Haddington and District Business Association (HDBA), echoed those sentiments and was worried that if Sainsbury’s sold a wide variety of non-food items it might lessen the chances of people visiting the town centre.

Douglas Proudfoot, head of service (development) at East Lothian Council, stressed that the local authority was already taking steps to attract people to the town centre.

He said: “We are actively supporting Haddington town centre businesses in a number of ways, including general business development support available through East Lothian Works and our Business Gateway service.

“In addition to this, the council is working with Haddington Community Development Trust, Haddington and District Business Association, other partners and community groups on a scheme to improve the town centre for everyone. We have secured some external funding to appoint a design team which will be looking at taking forward specific interventions identified in ‘a Vision for Haddington Town Centre’.

“We’ll have more to say on the next stages of this process shortly, including how all businesses and residents can get more involved.”