They knocked back one of the world’s biggest toy retailers in a controversial bid to “protect Ayr town centre”.
But council chiefs have given the green light to a massive food retail unit on the outskirts of that very same town.
The 3200 sq metre giant is part of the ambitious Heathfield project which Toys R Us was stopped from entering.
And the Post can reveal that South Ayrshire councillors knew NOTHING about the food bid – because planning bosses gave it the nod behind closed doors.
Baffled retail park chiefs admit the food unit has far more potential to damage Ayr town centre than any toy store.
Now the decision to give it approval, which came earlier this year, has raised questions about South Ayrshire’s planning system.
Alastair Dickie is the director of Heathfield’s owners, Ediston Properties.
He said: “This is a very substantial food retail site, with the potential to sell a range of other goods. Even toys.
“If you’re talking about the impact on a town centre, I’d say this has far more potential than Toys R Us.
“But you’d have to ask the planners why they rejected that one and put this through under delegated powers.”
Councillors do not make decisions on applications that are approved under delegated powers.
They are dealt with in private by the council’s officers.
And some councillors have been asking questions after finding out that food giants are being courted for the edge of town at the same time Toys R Us has been sent packing.
The Post understands that Marks & Spencer and Waitrose are among those being targeted for the new site at Heathfield.
Councillors hit the headlines last month when they said no to Toys R Us for fear it would harm trade in the town centre.
But an internal row has since erupted with some councillors desperate to rewrite the local development plan, which would allow the application to proceed without a hitch.
Heathfield’s developers, who have already invested more than £30 million in the site, insist they are ready to inject new life into the whole town.
Mr Dickie added: “Heathfield is changing and these are exciting times for the park and town. Hopefully the public come on board and lobby the council to change the local development plan, because the power is now in the hand of the councillors to make this happen.”