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Another Porkie from Lidl ... Why Can't We Talk? Let's All Get Positive ...

Lidl and Its Porkies!

It's hard to know what to believe from Lidl's Property Development Executives.

As is now widely known, and as reported in the East Lothian Courier this week [see below], Lidl gained approval for their store that now trades in Prestonpans on the back of a Design Principle & Solution that retained [yes retained] the Coeval Building i.e. the Old Fowler's HQ.

click on all press cuttings to enlarge

But as soon as the store was operating they placed the Coeval building on the market as a commercial premises and began briefing all interested parties, including the Arts Festival, to "find a developer for the site".

It seems pretty clear that they never for one moment had any intention of honouring the retention of the Old Fowler's HQ. It was just stated as a deliberate porkie in their Design Principles and Solution. And that porkie was supplemented with a Planning Gain of 20,000 for Prestonpans Community Council in 2006 - which had opposed the initial planning application. See the report below from East Lothian Courier dated October 20th 2006.

Now for Porkie # 2 - Remediation of the Mining Subsidence in the Grounds

Lidl's Development Executive Douglas Marshall, who last year described the Arts Festival as ill-informed and called on the Baron of Prestoungrange to show responsibility befitting his 'position' [?] in the community, now states in the East Lothian Courier above that "hundreds of thousands of pounds [are needed] to repair the underground mining problems at the site". Well really Douglas Marshall? You placed the property on the market in 2006 with a warranted civil engineering report that asserted such remediation could be accomplished for less than 40,000. And the Arts Festival made its formal offer to buy for 250,000 + meeting the cost of that remediation itself at that warranted cost i.e. some 290,000.

Is there actually a Porkie # 3 ... and even a Porkie # 4?

Since we clearly have two porkies on record already, it behoves us to see what further revelations might be in store!

To date, nobody from East Lothian Council has put their hands up as the locus of "the extensive discussions" Lidl's co-developer Fraser Thomson of Taylor Wimpey's subsidiary ThisisG2 has held "with the Council to meet the needs of Prestonpans, in terms of layout and design". Quite to the contrary 10% of the Prestonpans electorate has signed a petition to the Scottish Government seeking to exercise their Community Right to Buy to conserve the Old Fowler's HQ; and East Lothian Council has asked Historic Scotland to List the building on two occasions. Will Lidl and ThisisG2 please identify those "Council" persons so that the electorate can know who is so mysteriously speaking on its behalf.

And will Lidl please identify who, apart from the Arts Festival offer reported above, were those "other interested developers" they could "have sold to who were offering more". Or is that a porkie too?

It's a moral issue Herr Lidl, not a Game of Bluff!

The community in Prestonpans by and large appreciates your store - not its architecture but its merchandise. Locating in the town was good for the town, as was the 20,000 Planning Gain in 2006. But that appreciation does not encompass taking the community for granted or wilfully flouting its expressed wishes. 20,000 does not give you carte blanche to do as Lidl might please with an iconic part of the town's heritage. And it certainly does not justify telling porkies to try to win a public debate [even if it worked last time around!]

We agree it's tough luck that Lidl bought into the town's history as it did when it got the land it needed for its store. Lidl probably did not realise just what it had bought into but it soon became apparent. And Lidl have known quite explicitly since mid 2006. But they have proceeded blithely forward with, as Andrew Crummy observes, not a word of discussion with those who take the keenest interest in the town's history - and for very particular socioeconomic reasons. And as Lidl and ThisisG2 are finding, those mis/ ill-informed HistoryHuggers and artists are prepared to do a very great deal to seek to preserve and develop a building they and a most considerable proportion of the town's electors value.

Playing the Affordable Housing / 1st Time Buyers Card in the Game?

Finally, playing the 'affordable housing/ 1st time buyers card' is often a smart move whatever the eventual outcomes or prices might be. But just a modicum of local research would have shown that Prestonpans and neighbouring Cockenzie, Port Seton and Wallyford, with Blindwells on the horizon too, are more than, yes more than, able to address that challenge as appropriate without despoiling the town's iconic Old Fowler's HQ. Indeed, the massive growth of the town's population and the challenge of the eventual integration of thousands of incomers and Edinburgh commuters places an even higher premium on the work of the HistoryHuggers and artists as they campaign to reinforce and conserve the town's unique identity across 1000 years. And they are not lightweights just talking about an idea. They have a track record in the town this past decade that shows they mean it and they do it.

Prestonpans is Scotland's and the UK's leading mural town. The Global Conference in 2006 brought 64 sister communities from four continents to The Pans and Scotland's Minister of Culture. The arts and crafts Listed Gothenburg won the English [yes English] Heritage and CAMRA Award as the Best Pub Restoration in the UK in 2006 and a fistful of community awards too.

Stop Telling Porkies and Let's Have a Serious Discussion Please ...

All the energy that is being used to oppose Lidl's demolition plans could instead be harnessed to the mutual benefit of the town and Lidl's bottom line. Let's talk. Let's together create a scheme that makes excellent creative use of the balance of the land whilst staying with that Design Principle and Solution Lidl set down in 2004 and the community backed i.e. Retention of the Old Fowler's HQ/ Coeval building.

There's a wealth of ideas to float - including developing the sailing facilities with a ClubHouse/ Restaurant and artists' studios as well as Battle of Prestonpans Trust services and an imaginative stopping point for the John Muir Way. And murals too .... And in the Old HQ Fowler's Ales will be brewed again and Exhibitions of art and Prestonpans pottery offered.

Quite a place to visit, right next door to Prestonpans Lidl store and supported, even sponsored by Lidl. There's a Planning Gain worth talking about.

The Arts Festival believes it can bring that genre of development to the site. Let's do it!

P.S. East Lothian News also told the story .. see below

from The Arts Directorate and Fowler's Ales

Published Date: January 11th 2008

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