Plans to turn the former Edinburgh Woollen Mill premises in Ayr High Street into a takeaway have been kicked out by councillors – despite council officers acknowledging the ‘challenges’ of vacant town centre shops.

The takeaway would ‘adversely impact the viability and vitality of the High Street’ according to South Ayrshire Council’s planning officials.

They explained that approving hot food takeaways in the centre of town was contrary to the council’s Town Centre and Retail Local Development Plan (TCRLDP), which explicitly points these businesses to the periphery of town centres.

The unit at 208-210 High Street instead lies within the ‘core shopping’ area.

In their report, South Ayrshire planners state: “The proposal at hand proposes the change of use of a Class 1 retail unit to a hot food takeaway, within the core shopping area within Ayr High Street.”

They explain that the policy for core shopping areas “balances an intent to protect the primary ‘shopping’ function and character of our town centres with a degree of variety that keeps town centres lively and viable”.

While a number of ‘complementary uses’ are considered when it comes to non-core business, takeaways are excluded from that list.

Planning officials did acknowledge that there are issues over the number of vacant shops in the town centre, but said these were not to the extent that they would go against existing policy.

The report continues: “Whilst the council recognises the challenges and amenity impact of prevailing town centre vacancy rates, this is not a material consideration of such weight to merit a decision contrary to the development plan.”

This could risk setting a precedent which could go on to impact the broader principles of the plan.

“Furthermore,”the report continued, “it is considered that allowing hot food takeaways in core shopping areas does not overcome the wider vacancy issue overall, as it deprives peripheral town centre areas of a key potential source for reuse activity.”

The report also states that the proposal could not be supported as the council’s policy is to ‘direct applications for hot-food takeaways to the peripheral areas of town centres’.

They did suggest that the applicant could ‘reconsider’ their business model or location to align with the development plan, either through a ‘peripheral’ town centre premises or by changing the use of the planned outlet.

The application was refused as it was contrary to the local development plan.