Asda has asked the public to back its efforts to get the green light to open an outlet inthe Junction One Retail Park at Antrim.
It took the unusual step of urging people to write to the Planning Service backing plans which, it said, would create around 400 jobs. The company has plans for a store with a sales area of 54,000 sq ft at Junction One.
Philip Bartram, Asda property communications manager, said at a time of financial uncertainty it was committed to investing in Antrim and using local contractors to build the store and local people to run it.
“We are currently working closely with the Planning Service and other agencies to ensure a prompt decision on our application.
“In the meantime we would urge local people to show their support for our scheme and write to the Planning Service backing plans for a new Asda store,” he said.
But the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association expressed concern with the Asda application. Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said the proposed out of town store was in breach of draft planning regulations and would accelerate further the retail decline of Antrim town centre.
He said: “This proposed Asda store will prevent any serious prospect of retail regeneration of Antrim town centre and will negatively impact on those independent retailers that are already struggling.”
He dismissed the claim the move would create 400 new jobs — saying independent research showed it would result in a net jobs loss of 270 from local retailers and suppliers in the town.
Meanwhile Asda said it is creating up to 120 jobs at its home delivery service. The new Coleraine service, set up at a cost of £1.5m, will provide deliveries to homes in a 25-mile radius.