Planning permission has been granted for a new Tesco superstore to be built on the same site as a controversial retail development in Co Down.
The retail giant recently received the go-ahead to start work on the multi-million pound store that will be located on the former Ards Borough Council-owned abattoir site in Newtownards, adjacent to Portaferry Road.
Once complete, the new Tesco store will be almost double the size of the one at the Ards Shopping Centre and is expected to create an additional 200 full and part-time positions.
It will, however, also mean the closure of the store in the Ards Shopping Centre, prompting concerns from retailers in the town.
The new Tesco superstore will replace the existing store at the complex and is the first of three stages of the contentious £250m Castlebawn project. The mixed-use development originally secured planning approval but is now the subject of a public inquiry following objections from the wider Ards business community.
Many fear the project will “decimate” Newtownards town centre.
Ards Chamber of Commerce vice-chair Andrew Getty, whose family has run Knotts Bakery on High Street for the past 30 years, said while he was not completely opposed to the new superstore, he did feel it was the start of the end for their town centre.
“To be fair, Tesco on its own probably won’t be the end of the world as long as they limit the amount of comparison shops and retail space they have given it,” he said. “A food store won’t decimate the town by itself, but it certainly isn’t helping the town centre.
“It’s the wider development we are opposed to more than Tesco, but it’s not going to help. It sets a precedent.”
A spokesman from the Planning Service confirmed permission had been granted for the Tesco superstore.
He also revealed the Department of the Environment had removed the retail giant’s application from the Castlebawn project because of the inquiry.
Glyn Roberts, from the Northern Ireland Retail Trade Association, said the organisation would have preferred if the Tesco application remained part of the Castlebawn project and therefore part of the inquiry.
“I think I would have preferred a public inquiry looking at the whole lot including the Tesco application,” he said.