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Attwood ignores concerns of city traders

There is an obsessive and often misguided view among our politicians that any investment is good investment. Alex Attwood typifies this mantra.

If ever the meaning of irony needed explaining, Mr Attwood gave it his best shot by granting planning permission at Newry's Green Bank Industrial Estate after the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Traders' Association (NIIRTA) said radical overhaul is needed to save our town centres. The last thing our town centres need is the addition of the substantial new out-of-town-centre retail space being permitted by Mr Attwood.

It is clear that Mr Attwood has ignored the valid concerns of Newry City councillors on traffic-impact assessment alone.

He also appears to have ignored the retail lobby of the city and glossed over the retail impact on city-centre traders. NIIRTA's recommendations on saving our town centres are entirely valid. They are backed by the Mary Portas report on retailing.

The solutions are clear: immediate relief from business rates in town centres; extended permitted development rights for retail operators in town centres; more flexible planning approaches to use of upper floors; fast-tracking of retail planning applications; and a moratorium on all out-of-town retail projects.

Mr Attwood's decision isn't good for Newry city centre. The real impact is that home-grown business will suffer at the hands of national chain stores that don't have any commitment to any given location and leave as quickly as they arrive.

CONAL STEWART

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