Supermarket Lidl has secured permission to open at Connswater Shopping Centre
A new Lidl supermarket at east Belfast shopping centre Connswater is now set to go ahead.
Belfast City Council gave the green light to the German discounter’s plans for a new store at Connswater on Monday evening.
Connswater has been struggling to find a big-name retailer to fill the void left by former big tenants, Tesco and Dunnes.
A spokesman for the supermarket — which currently has 38 stores around Northern Ireland — said: “Lidl welcomes the positive recommendation from Belfast City Council regarding a new development at Connswater.
“Lidl believes that the new development will greatly enhance the shopping experience in the Connswater area and we look forward to this exciting redevelopment.
“We would like to thank the Connswater Traders Association, and our Connswater customers, for their ongoing support and we look forward to working with them over the coming months.”
Last night’s decision was a turnaround for the council, which had previously indicated it would turn down the plans.
It had argued that there were other vacant sites, such as the former Tesco and Dunnes buildings at Connswater, and vacant sites at the Park Centre in west Belfast and at Forestside in the south of the city.
But last week, as it previewed last night’s planning meeting, it said that it had changed its view after receiving further legal advice, hearing the opinion of the director of planning and place.
The new store is subject to conditions, including that work is to start within a five-year period.
Alliance councillor David Armitage welcomed the development, saying he is "delighted" by the decision.
"I’m absolutely delighted the initial decision to decline Lidl has been overturned," he said.
"In recent months I’ve recused myself from the Committee in order to work alongside residents and traders to ensure this vital project got the go-ahead.
"I’m pleased to have represented the needs of the community, challenging perceptions and in the end changing minds on the issue.
"While some still saw fit to argue against the application, hopefully the years of struggling for Connswater are now over and the local community can look forward a revived period for the centre."