LAND which had been earmarked for social housing or community use is instead set to be sold to a budget supermarket chain in a move branded “a monumental error of judgement”.
Aldi has been chosen as the preferred bidder to purchase the former Oxgangs Social Work Centre and St John’s Parish Church, which have been packaged together as part of a deal between the Church of Scotland and the city council.
When marketing the site, the city had said that “a mix of community uses and residential is likely to be preferred”.
But despite two of 11 bids being made by social housing providers, a larger offer from the wealthy German firm has been accepted.
The news has been met with outrage, with the site seen as ideal for desperately needed new housing in part of the city that already boasts extensive shopping facilities.
Gordon Macdonald, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Pentlands, called on city leaders to “stop this folly” and reconsider before the deal with Aldi was signed.
He said: “This is very disappointing. While there is such great need for housing in Edinburgh, this is the wrong decision for Oxgangs.
“At least part of this land was earmarked for housing. When there is pressure on green belt land in other parts of Edinburgh and the council has already reported difficulty in identifying land to meet its own housing quotas, it defies belief that it thinks we need yet another supermarket here.”
Mr Macdonald said that there were two large supermarkets and a Scotmid outlet within a mile of the site and that an Aldi store could put the nearby Broadway shopping centre at risk of closure.
One outlet in the centre, Broadway Convenience Store, was recently named health promoting retailer of the year in the Scottish Grocer Awards.
Mr Macdonald said: “A site of this size could provide over 70 much-needed affordable homes. ”
If the deal does go ahead, Aldi would have to win planning permission, meaning nearby residents and businesses would be entitled to object.
However, Green MSP Alison Johnstone said selling the site to the supermarket would represent a “monumental error of judgement by the council”.
She added: “Edinburgh desperately needs to build more affordable housing and the very last thing we need is another supermarket.
“Putting a superstore on that site would put unbearable pressure on the parade of shops right next to the site.
“We’re often told that brownfield sites like this are the first place where new housing should go, so I urge the council to look again at any bids from housing providers.”
A spokesman for Aldi confirmed that it had been chosen as the preferred bidder for the sought-after site, and said its plans would be brought forward in the coming weeks.
A council spokeswoman said: “This property has been through an open market sale process and negotiations are being finalised in order to determine the preferred bidder.”