IT'S approaching three years since a new Lidl and M&S Foodhall in Dunfermline were given the green light but they're no nearer to opening.

An extension to Halbeath Retail Park that includes the two supermarkets and promised more than 200 jobs was approved controversially by councillors in February 2017 – full planning permission followed six months later – but work has never started.

A dispute is thought to be holding it up as one of the conditions was a £703,000 bill for transport improvements in the area that the park owners, Royal London Mutual Insurance Society, didn't want to pay.

Royal London also own a strip of adjacent land that the local authority need for the £14 million Northern Link Road (NLR) – and there's no agreement on that either.

The clock is ticking though as Kevin Treadwell, the council's service manager, told the Press: "Planning permission for an extension to the retail park was issued on August 3, 2017. This permission remains valid until August 3, 2020 when it will expire unless the development has begun before this date.

"Discussions are ongoing with the respective landowners to acquire the land necessary to deliver the NLR through agreement.

"In May, the council also agreed to the use of compulsory purchase powers and this option remains open to the council, in the event no agreement is reached through these discussions."

Asked to comment, Royal London said there was "no update".

The west planning committee rejected the proposed extension originally in January 2016, with opponents stating it would "kill the High Street" in Dunfermline but fresh plans were approved in February 2017.

Planning officers had recommended refusal but councillors voted 6-5 in favour, with then chair Bob Young later denying that the 'ransom strip' – the piece of land the council need for the NLR – had influenced the decision in any way and that the promise of 200-plus jobs persuaded him.

The NLR, to serve the new housing estates in north Dunfermline and take traffic away from the centre of town, will start at Kingseat Road and includes a £7m road bridge over the Fife Circle railway line.

The stretch of Kingseat Road up to the level crossing is owned by Royal London and the council's attempts to buy it have come to nothing.

As a condition of the extension being approved, Royal London was asked for £703,000 for transport improvements to ease congestion in the area caused by the nine new shops and food outlets.

Their appeal against paying the sum – the first instalment is due when development starts – was rejected by the west planning committee in January 2018 and they decided against a further appeal to the Scottish Government.