Asda is enlisting the help of local councillors to try and overcome an expected veto by planning officials on its plans to develop an outlet in Inverness.
There have been complaints in the local press in the last few weeks that Tesco is once more exploiting its quasi-monopolistic position in Inverness, amongst large supermarket outlets, by charging higher prices for petrol than in nearby Elgin (about 40 miles away); in my personal experience this has been an off-and-on phenomenon for at least 10 years. Elgin has both a large Tesco and a large Asda outlet.
Tesco now have three outlets in Inverness - a very large 'extra' store, a quite large store not very far away in the former premises of the Co-op (*) and a smaller (but still of a decent size) outlet on the other side of the river in what were formerly the premises of William Low, the Dundee-based superkarket chain which it acquired some years ago.
Personally I think that Inverness could do with some real competition for Tesco in the supermarket field; currently the market is split between the three Tesco stores, one quite large Morrisons (formerly the Safeway store) and two largish stores (a Lidl and a Co-op), but both are located in parts of the city with relatively poor transport infrastructure, near the road out to the canal and Beauly.
According to one of the people quoted in the first article I link to above, people travel from areas such as Darnleigh in Inverness to Elgin so they can shop at Asda; I myself used to make a trip to Elgin at least on a monthly basis for just this purpose when I lived at Culloden, a suburb of Inverness and now that I live in Nairn (fifteen miles closer to Elgin) I still make the trip at least on a monthly basis.
Since the new southern by-pass has been built in Inverness a few years ago it is now much easier to get to the area where Asda hope to build their new store and it is significant that local councillors for districts in the vicinity say they are in favour.
There is a meeting of Highland Council's Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey planning applications and review committee tomorrow, Tuesday 12 June 2007, at 10.30am at Highland Council headquarters where Asda will apparently give over part of its allocated time to community council representatives. I have no especial love for Asda, but I do believe that this area (not just Inverness as people in the surrounding towns often travel to Inverness to do a 'bigger' shop) needs some more robust competition for Tesco than Morrisions is able to supply.
(*) Many people think, me amongst them, that a major probable reason for Tesco acquiring the former Co-op store at Inshes some years ago was with the specific intention of trying to keep Asda out of Inverness.