M&S denies rumours over shopping centre land deal
Land beside a major shopping centre in Co Armagh which already has planning consent for an extension has gone up for sale.
The 3.5 acres on Lakeview Road at the back of Rushmere Shopping Centre in Craigavon belonged to Roads Service, part of the Department for Regional Development (DRD).
It's understood the board of Marks -amp; Spencer has approved a proposal to take 60,000 sq ft of the new extension.
But a spokeswoman for M-amp;S said: "We don't comment on rumour and speculation in relation to new M-amp;S stores."
Commercial property agents TDK have been appointed by Land and Property Services to sell the land.
Rushmere owner Central Craigavon Ltd already has planning permission for the space for 120,000 sq ft of retail space, a cinema, restaurant units and 500 car park spaces.
A spokeswoman for Rushmere said it was "interested in the opportunity" but would not confirm whether M-amp;S had been approached.
"If an opportunity to extend the centre were to become possible through the purchase of the land then we would have plenty of interested retailers to talk to. At this stage no deals are done and we would not comment on the identity of any interested parties."
SDLP Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly said she supported the proposed extension as a potential jobs boost to the area: "Some 900 jobs would be created between construction of the extension and if the plan is realised.
"There is also a plan for leisure space and a cinema, which is very much needed as a neutral space for people in Craigavon."
Marks -amp; Spencer currently has 18 food and clothing stores across Northern Ireland. Its closest store to Craigavon is at Sprucefield.
If Rushmere obtains the land, building goes ahead and new retail tenants are attracted, it will be a boon to the centre as it fights off the challenge posed by any future John Lewis development at Sprucefield.
Central Craigavon's attempts to block John Lewis suffered a setback last week when the Court of Appeal rejected its challenge to a draft planning policy containing guidelines on how development at Sprucefield will be handled.