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New Northern Ireland motorway service station to create 140 jobs

Petrol station giant proposing £6m motorway service area

By Margaret Canning and Emma Deighan

Forecourt giant Maxol Oil has said a proposed motorway service station in Co Down would create 140 new jobs in a £6m investment.

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The company is awaiting the outcome of an application for planning permission to build a motorway service area (MSA) on the Armagh Road outside the city.

It said it would bring 80 jobs during construction phase and 60 full-time retail jobs when completed. The application is now being considered by Newry and Mourne Council.

Maxol and other forecourt operators in Northern Ireland are now in strong competition with Irish forecourt retail giant Applegreen, which now has three motorway service areas in Northern Ireland.

However, Applegreen's closest MSA to the Newry site is over the border in Co Louth.

Maxol has around 100 petrol stations in Northern Ireland - but its Newry site would be just its second motorway-style location.

And the Newry site would be close to the long-established Fiveways Service Station. The Nisa-led location is also at a key junction, where the Armagh Road branches off to Belfast, Armagh and Dublin.

Maxol said its new station would "service motorway traffic on lands east of the A1 sitting about 200 metres west of the Tandragee Road, Carnbane Road and Shepherds Way roundabout".

A spokesman for Maxol said: "We have recently delivered a service station at Tannaghmore on the A26 between Antrim and Ballymena and we hope to continue investing in Northern Ireland."

The planning application was first lodged with Newry, Mourne and Down District Council in August last year. A consultation was held between August and February this year.

Glyn Roberts, the chief executive of trade organisation Retail NI, said competition in forecourt retail had been heating up for some time.

"There has been an arms race in recent times by the big players in the game to become bigger and better.

"And developments such as Applegreen and bigger Maxol stations are now as much about food as they are about petrol.

"But in many respects, Northern Ireland is playing catch-up with the rest of the UK and other parts of the island in this market.

"There is already some very fierce competition but there's no reason why we couldn't see even more potential new players on that Belfast to Dublin corridor."

He added: "Increasing competition is what retail is all about - it's a constant process of innovation and change but that's all to the benefit of the consumer." It comes as Maxol announced a £1m investment with Northern Ireland coffee chain Ground Espresso Bars.

Ground Espresso will open new coffee shops in Maxol stations - with the first to open at the end of this month at Maxol's Tannaghmore service station in an investment of over £200,000.

Brian Donaldson, chief executive of Maxol, said: "We are delighted to be announcing this new partnership with Ground Espresso Bars.

"As a family owned and operated business with a passion for quality and innovation, we have much in common with our new partners and we look forward to developing several projects with Ground over the next three years.

"We want our customers to have plenty of choice within our sites and by introducing Ground into our estate that is exactly what we are providing.

"Along with our existing food offerings that include our own Maxol deli, we are working hard to provide our customers with a fabulous new offer within a modern and welcoming environment."

The group was set up in 1920 by William McMullan - and the fourth generation of the firm are now company directors.

It has a network of 234 petrol stations, and owns 115 outright.

Belfast Telegraph