Belfast Telegraph

Banbridge traders furious as Home Bargains is given green light

By Joanne Sweeney

Traders in Banbridge will be hit once more after discount retailer Home Bargains opens an out-of-town store, a businessman has claimed.

The Manchester-based chain has been given planning permission to open a 2,000 sq m outlet at Bridgewater Park beside the Tesco Extra store just outside the Co Down town.

The new store is likely to divert £1.3m of trade away from the town centre, with Home Bargains aiming for a £5.5m annual turnover once opened, according to a retail impact assessment carried out by an agent for the landlord LS Banbridge Phase Two.

But Michael Donaghy, a shoe retailer and the president of the Banbridge Chamber of Commerce, said that any business taken away from the centre of the town was a step too far.

He added: "Any trade diverted away from the town centre is worrying because the Tesco Extra store has had an impact, as we warned it would.

"There are several units in the town's main shopping area, Newry Street, that could be developed to suit Home Bargains' retail needs, so the question has to be asked, 'Why choose Bridgewater over the town centre'?"

Independent retailer Frank McPolin, whose two businesses are in administration, also attacked the Home Bargains plan. "It doesn't matter what I say about this because it seems like planners and councils don't care any more about town centres," Mr McPolin added.

The businessman, who owns a SuperValu supermarket and another smaller shop in the town also told how, with both his businesses in trouble, 80 people stood to lose their jobs.

He blamed the double impact of a 30% hike in rates and the knock-on effect of the opening of the Tesco Extra for the problems in his companies.

The Home Bargains application was opposed by the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association.

Chief executive Glyn Roberts said: "Given that the Tesco Bridgewater store has already taken 30% of trade away from Banbridge town centre and contributed to the SuperValu store going into administration, this is not the type of development Banbridge needs at this time"

"We believe that this store will draw even more trade and jobs away from Banbridge town centre. The focus for this type of store should be the town centre first - that is what the new retail planning policy makes clear."

The Home Bargains chain already has 15 stores across Northern Ireland.

Its Banbridge outlet will sell its usual home and garden products and seasonal items with a small offering of groceries.

The retailer declined to comment further on its plans for the new outlet.

Belfast Telegraph