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Stirling Uni professor stands down from council role

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Top retail expert, Professor Leigh Sparks has resigned from Stirling Council’s City Centre Working Group last week after councillors approved plans for a new £20 million retail park just outside of Stirling.

The Crookbridge site, earmarked for the £20m retail park development

Ramoyle Development Ltd were granted planning permission for the Crookbridge site adjacent to the Kerse Road.

It is said to include a drive-thru restaurant, car showroom, various retail stores and car parking which they estimated would create around 250 full-time jobs; and 600 if you include the construction workers.

Professor Sparks is the Deputy Principal at the University of Stirling and also a Professor of Retail Studies.

In an online blog Sparks said traders should feel “mightily let down” at this decision and further criticised the four councillors who had backed its development despite planning officials recommending a refusal before it went ahead.

Professor Leigh Sparks

In his blog, Professor Sparks said: “The last thing the struggling Stirling city centre, especially coming out of the pandemic, needed was another car-focused development.”

In a tweet, he added: “This is a dreadful decision, out of touch with national and local ambitions and policies. Members went against officials’ recommendation to reject and against the policy and policy direction of their party’s government.”

Seventeen other objections were made to the new retail park plans including from the Thistles shopping centre and from Springkerse Retail Park, located not far from the new Crookbridge site.

Council Planning officials also said that there was not enough information to show that the addition of this new retail park would not have a negative impact on the Stirling city centre in terms of its economy, and also in terms of climate change in general within the UK.

As well as these seventeen official objections, many residents of Stirling have also voiced their opinion on the new retail park.

In response to the council, one Stirling local stated that they felt the council offered “complete misinformation on the economic benefit” of the development, and claimed that it will not in fact create 600 new jobs, as 205 of these will only be relocations.

Despite Professor Sparks’ decision to stand down from his role in the council due to the development, within his blog he also added: “I hope those left prove me wrong and Stirling city centre can recover. I wish them well.”

Feature image credit: stir.ac.uk

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