DEVELOPING the empty Somerfield site near TechnipFMC's Pitreavie base will be "vital" for the company's future progression.

That's according to a Fife Council report after the energy industry supplier refreshed their proposals to build on the land off Queensferry Road.

The three-year planning permission was due to expire but TechnipFMC, who said they had "no current plans" to start work on the site, were granted an extension by the west planning committee.

A report to councillors said: "The applicants have advised that, given the dip in the energy market over the last two or three years, the proposed manufacturing and production facility to be located on this site did not develop according to the original envisaged timeline.

"The future business plan still remains one of consolidation and expansion to their existing production facilities at Dunfermline in accordance with the forecasted growth of the business.

"This proposal therefore still plays a vital role in the company’s future plans globally."

The Somerfield depot in Pitreavie Business Park closed in 2011 with the loss of 250 jobs after the Co-op group built a new distribution centre in North Lanarkshire.

In December 2014, FMC Technologies received planning permission for a new warehouse, an industrial building, security gatehouse, training block and a welfare building – featuring a gym, locker rooms, showers and a restaurant – on the site.

Plans for the area, 306,000 sq ft in size, included 513 car-parking spaces and the re-opening of the access from Queensferry Road.

However, in recent years, FMC, a major supplier to the oil and gas industries, have been hit by the downturn in crude oil prices with a number of jobs lost.

And the plans for the old Somerfield site seemed to be shelved indefinitely when the American-owned firm agreed a £13.7 billion merger with French rivals Technip in May 2016.

The new company, with 37,000 staff in 48 countries, said the aim was to become a "global leader" and part of the deal would see costs cut by £274m a year from 2019.

The energy market has continued to fluctuate and last month TechnipFMC confirmed they were proposing up to 25 redundancies at Pitreavie due to "ongoing economic challenges faced by the oil and gas industry".

However, they did apply in November to renew the planning permission, with a number of tweaks.

The approved development across five phases now includes two industrial buildings, a main building, a warehouse, logistics building and a possible production / office / training block.

TechnipFMC also wanted two of the previous planning conditions removed, relating to the provision of public art and archaeological works.

Councillors agreed and the council report said there was a "desire to deliver this site and provide commercial and employment opportunities".

It added: "It is considered that the investment of the financial aspects of developing a high quality building far outweigh the provision of a smaller, standalone piece of public art would be far more beneficial to the area. And the previous works carried out on site are unlikely to result in any archaeological artefacts remaining undisturbed/damaged."

Despite council enthusiasm, a short statement from the company said: "TechnipFMC confirms it has extended its original planning permission application with Fife Council regarding the above-mentioned site, however there are no current plans to develop the site."