SIX years on and work has finally started on the Halbeath Retail Park extension that promised to deliver a Lidl supermarket, an M&S Foodhall and more than 200 jobs.

Royal London Mutual Insurance Society, who own the site in Dunfermline, received planning permission to add nine new units in 2017 but development has been repeatedly delayed and not a brick has been laid.

However Fife Council have been sent a commencement of development notice with confirmation that work began on phase three of the retail park on February 14.

Bryce Goodall, from the Halbeath and Duloch Community Council, said: "We welcome the jobs and employment opportunities that these new retail units will bring, especially Lidl, I think that's going to be an amazing addition to the area.

Dunfermline Press:

"Local people will be able to get access to food and provisions at a cheaper price, which would be a fantastic help during this cost of living crisis.

"However, there is a worry about the increase of vehicles and traffic congestion in the area, and there needs to be better pedestrian access to the retail park. It's a very busy road to cross."

There are already nine units at the retail park – including Asda, B&M, Argos, Halfords and Pets At Home – and the extension will double the number of units to 18.

The plans include an extra 300 parking spaces as well as transport improvements and a pedestrian crossing.

A number of conditions, which the council said must be met before work could start, have now been ticked off, including a remediation strategy.

Site investigations found old mineworkings across the whole site and grouting will be required to fill voids, with measures taken to deal with ground gas too.

Mr Goodall continued: "There's also the outstanding issue of the flooding in Halbeath.

"The have-a-go-hero who removed the hay bale from the SUDS pond, with the water level reportedly going down four feet, we really have to thank him but it shouldn't have been necessary.

"Fife Council, Scottish Water and the site owners, Royal London, should have acted to prevent this major flooding.

"My main worry is if they're going to put down more tarmac for car parks, where is the rainwater going to go?

"They could have provided some reassurance and answered questions if they had met with the community to explain their expansion plans but Royal London have neglected to do so.

"I only found out from the Press that work had started, the community should have been told first.

"In stark contrast Stephens the baker, who are building a new drive-thru here, have engaged with us at every stage of the process."

Although Lidl and M&S confirmed their intentions very early in the process – in 2016 the discount retailer said they were "keen to create a new store at Halbeath Retail Park" while M&S promised 55 jobs and said "We want to bring an M&S Foodhall to Halbeath Retail Park" – it's not clear if they remain as committed, or who else will be moving in.

Dunfermline Press: This is what the new extension at Halbeath Retail Park in Dunfermline should look like. Work is now underway.This is what the new extension at Halbeath Retail Park in Dunfermline should look like. Work is now underway. (Image: The Harris Partnership)

One of the units will be a takeaway with drive-thru and Costa were interested, but they have since opened a drive-thru across the road at the new Pittsburgh Retail Park.

This week a spokesperson for Marks and Spencer simply said: "We have no current announcements to make for Dunfermline.”

Lidl have so far not commented, and Royal London did not wish to comment.

The retail park extension was controversially approved in February 2017 and planning permission, which says work must start within three years, had been extended twice due to COVID.

Under the current consent work had to get underway by May of this year.

The main dispute concerned the council's demand for more than £700,000 to pay for transport improvements in the area while another sticking point was a strip of land on the eastern edge of the retail park that the council wanted to buy.

It is to be used for the Northern Link Road, the £20m-plus bypass that will run from Halbeath to Milesmark, and a deal is in the process of being finalised.