'Tesco cloud' shrouds town: Store refusal upheld after claims plan was stifling business
The retail heart of a seaside town has been stifled by a 'Tesco cloud' hanging over it while the supermarket giant pressed ahead with seeking approval for an out-of-town store.
That's according to the Planning Appeals Commission, which has upheld a planning refusal issued by the Department of Environment, saying the plan has already caused significant loss of investment in Ballycastle.
Tesco's plans for the out-of-town superstore were rebuffed by the PAC this week, one week after refusing a larger Tesco store in Londonderry.
The PAC refused outline planning permission for a mixed use and residential scheme between Leyland Heights and Ramoan Road in the town.
Dismissing the latest appeal, commissioner Aidan McCooey said there was evidence that the Tesco proposal has already cost the town investment and this would continue if planning permission was granted.
He said traders had described a Tesco 'cloud' hanging over the town which has discouraged retail investment until the outcome of the proposal was known.
"The proposals would be likely to have a significant adverse impact on the vitality and viability of the town centre and would be likely to undermine its convenience shopping function," Mr McCooey said.
"There is a suitable alternative site available in the town centre for the proposal."
Mr McCooey said he had also heard arguments the damage to the vitality of the town centre would lead to an increasing number of vacant commercial properties, having a detrimental impact on the appearance of the area.
Tesco said it would be disappointing news for the many people in Ballycastle who wanted the investment.
"Our development would have provided the local community with a great new shopping experience and 26 new houses, as well as creating over 100 new jobs," a spokesman said.
Independent councillor Seamus Blaney said a large number of people gathered to protest outside the council offices when the proposal was refused by the DOE, but Tesco appeared to have done little to publicise its appeal and interest had waned.
But independent councillor Padraig McShane said the refusal would present new opportunities.
"There was a cloud hanging over Ballycastle while people waited for the outcome. Many will be very disappointed and I respect that, but at the same time it's a good day for Ballycastle as it gives us a chance to develop," he said.
STORY SO FAR
Tesco first submitted an application for the Ballycastle store in 2005. In 2007 it appealed a planning refusal but withdrew the appeal following a campaign by traders. New plans were submitted in 2009 but the Department of Environment refused the planning application in 2011 after a petition opposing the store was signed by more than 3,000 people.