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Belfast's Cityside in the top five of UK league of shopping parks

By Margaret Canning

Published 25/05/2016

The centre formerly known as Yorkgate is at number five out of 32 parks in the retail and leisure parks league, part of a UK report by Trevor Wood Associates
The centre formerly known as Yorkgate is at number five out of 32 parks in the retail and leisure parks league, part of a UK report by Trevor Wood Associates

North Belfast's Cityside is today named in a top five of UK shopping and leisure parks.

The centre formerly known as Yorkgate is at number five out of 32 parks in the retail and leisure parks league - part of a UK report by Trevor Wood Associates.

Cityside is home to companies including Asda Home, New Look and Home Bargains, as well as a 14-screen cinema.

Claire McAnallen, from commercial property agency Savills, said the centre's owners - US fund Marathon Asset Management - planned to invest around £2m in improving the location's leisure offering.

Cityside is hoping to benefit from the arrival of thousands of students to the north of Belfast city centre when Ulster University opens its new campus.

The Definitive Guide to Retail & Leisure Parks 2016 also said that the recent closure of three B&Q DIY stores in Ballymena, Boucher Road and Londonderry had led to the province having the highest retail warehouse vacancy rates the UK.

A total of four have now shut, with B&Q in Craigavon pulling down the shutters in April.

According to today's report, at the end of last year, 11.9% of retail warehousing space in Northern Ireland was empty - well up from 9.7% during the previous six months.

But the present rate still marked a steady decline on a high of 12.7% in 2014, according to Trevor Wood Associates.

Despite the closures, B&Q is still the biggest tenant on retail parks in the UK, including Northern Ireland, with five large stores in the province. Across the UK, the chain decreased its estate by 5%.

Discounter B&M Bargains was the fastest-growing retail park tenant, increasing its estate by a significant 23%.

Mr Wood said: "We studied over 1,500 retail and leisure parks and major retail warehouse developments across the UK, with detailed historic information for every one of the 15,600 retail warehouse units in the country.

"In Northern Ireland, we looked at every site including 46 retail parks."

Mr Wood added that future developments - such as the next phase of The Quays Shopping Centre in Newry - would also increase the amount of available space.

Longwood Road in Newtownabbey is the highest-ranking Northern Ireland retail warehouse cluster, followed by Airport Road in Holywood.

The Odyssey Pavilion in Belfast is also at number 29 in the UK top leisure schemes list.

Ryan Kee, retail director of Lambert Smith Hampton, said new entrants such as Oak Furniture Land - which opened its first Northern Ireland store on the Boucher Road in south Belfast last year - had boosted the outlook for retail parks.

And he claimed other companies, such as home, leisure and garden shop The Range, were also eyeing up their first stores in Northern Ireland. "The findings show the great potential for investment in retail and leisure parks," Mr Kee said.

"Northern Ireland is an attractive proposition to major national and international brands.

"This year has witnessed new entrants to the local market such as Oak Furniture Land and GO Outdoors, with the likes of The Range reportedly interested in gaining representation in the province.

"Food and beverage operators continue to seek new stores in retail parks, and recently we have seen activity from Greggs, Costa, Nando's and Starbucks."

Belfast Telegraph

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