Highlands & Islands

Inverness West Link: Delays 'affect value' of Tesco store

Tesco shopping in trolley
Image caption Supermarket chain Tesco has four supermarkets in Inverness

Tesco has suffered financially because of delays in building a new road in Inverness, according to lawyers for the supermarket giant.

The company offered to contribute £340,000 towards the cost of constructing the West Link, if it was completed as planned by October 2011.

Work on Highland Council's proposed road is now expected to start in 2015.

Lawyers said the value of a store sited near the planned route had fallen "very substantially" because of the delays.

Tesco said it would no longer be making the payment as the road had not yet been built.

The company said it considered the road to be an important route to bringing customers to the supermarket at Ness-side.

The details are contained in a letter sent from Tesco's solicitors to Highland Council and obtained by BBC Scotland in a Freedom of Information request.

The West Link is needed to ease travel across Inverness and free up congested city centre streets, according to the local authority.

It could cost up to £34m to construct.

The planned route passes close to Tesco's Ness-side store, which became the supermarket chain's fourth store in Inverness when it opened in July 2011.

Made losses

In October 2001, Tesco signed what is known as a section 75 planning agreement with Highland Council in connection with the land it bought for the Ness-side shop.

According to that deal, Tesco agreed to pay £340,000 to the local authority as a developer contribution towards the construction costs of the West Link.

In the letter written in April last year, lawyers said Tesco no longer has to make the payment as a clause in the agreement said the road had to be completed within 10 years by October 2011.

The law firm also said the Ness-side store had made losses due to the lack of a new road.

Lawyers wrote: "The capital value of the development site has been reduced in value by a sum very substantially in excess of £300,000 due to the absence of any linkage to residential developments to the north west of the Dores Road roundabout and through the significant reduction in traffic using the distributor road in the manner anticipated."

The letter added: "In these circumstances, Tesco's position is that no payment is due by them in terms of the section 75 agreement. Their wish is to enter into a formal discharge to clear the register."

'Very seriously'

Highland Council has declined to comment on the detail of this legal dispute.

It has confirmed, however, that it was arranging a meeting between senior council representatives and Tesco to discuss the matter.

Tesco said Ness-side formed part of £10m investment it had made in Inverness.

The company said: "We take our legal responsibilities very seriously.

"Under the terms of our legal agreement with the council in 2001, the council were to construct the Inverness bypass by 2011 and in turn we were to contribute £340,000 towards that construction.

"The council have not delivered the bypass in the agreed 10-year period, so the payment has not been made."

The company added: "We are always happy to meet with councils to discuss our investments and developments and we will be meeting again with Highland Council shortly."

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