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Retail plan for Omagh is approved

A new retail development in Omagh town centre was granted planning approval – just 13 weeks after the application was first lodged.

The existing Supervalu store in Omagh town centre will be extended and altered with the store itself moving to new extended premises on the lower ground floor. Meanwhile Primark will take over the floorspace currently occupied by Supervalu, while the DRD Roads Service car park will be improved with new traffic flows and improved access.

The minister said only two objections were received and Omagh District Council has raised no objections to the proposals.

The speed of the decision is in marked contrast to some major planning applications which have dragged on for years.

One of the most notorious is the John Lewis application to build a retail development at Sprucefield. The retailer first announced its plans in 2004 but there was frustration over the delay in a decision as objections were raised by traders in Belfast and Lisburn.

On several occasions, planning permission was granted but the process became bogged down in a series of High Court challenges and public inquiries.

Eventually in February 2013, John Lewis pulled the plug, saying an announcement by then-Environment Minister Alex Attwood to limit future development at Sprucefield to selling bulky goods effectively quashed its plans.

Mr Attwood had announced the restriction as part of an update on the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan, insisting that it was right to protect the vitality and viability of existing town and city centres.

The Omagh development lies in the town centre and will bring trade to the town. John Lewis's 20-store proposal at Sprucefield threatened to cannibalise nearby town, which would not have tied in with the 'town centre first' approach of the DoE.

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has recently proposed quick refusals for 'substandard' proposals that don't comply with planning policy, which might have stopped the John Lewis saga dragging on for so many years – although his department insists it will work with John Lewis in any application it makes.

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