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Objection stalls Northern Ireland out-of-town retail development at Ards

EXCLUSIVE

By Rachel Martin

A last-minute objection has stalled a decision on a multi-million pound retail development for Newtownards. Planners hoped to redevelop the £3.1m former Crepe Weaver factory site, to the east of the town, into a retail and residential village, creating around 400 jobs.

But the proposal has attracted an objection from the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) - putting any prospect of a decision on hold until February.

The objection was lodged just hours before the application was to come before the local council earlier this month after being recommended for approval.

The letter of objection, signed by NIIRTA chief executive Glyn Roberts, claimed the development would take shoppers away from the town centre and make existing traffic problems even worse.

The plans include a 100-bedroom hotel, a 70-room nursing home, a nursery, cafes, a four-lane petrol station, several fast food outlets, a community centre, a health centre, a bank and up to 96 apartments.

It was proposed by Marm Developments, a Newtownards company connected to directors of the former textile factory.

It would be the first development on the site after the factory closed in 2005.

The plan was previously given outline permission by the Department of the Environment in 2013, but building work did not take place.

A spokeswoman for Ards and North Down Borough Council said councillors at the meeting were unable to consider the objection fully.

She said: "On the afternoon of the meeting, a lengthy objection was submitted to the council from NIIRTA.

"Due to the level of detail contained within, there was insufficient time for officers to sufficiently appraise the materiality of the content, or for the applicant's agent to respond.

"It was therefore necessary to withdraw the application from the agenda for the planning committee."

A spokesman for Marm Developments said: "Planning permission was previously granted for mixed use development on this site by the Minister for the Environment.

"Marm Developments Ltd are continuing to work to secure a positive planning outcome, which will facilitate the regeneration of this important site within Newtownards".

Speaking at the time, then Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said the project would be a "tremendous economic and social boost for the area".

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