Belfast Telegraph

Tesco in more planning woe

Fresh setback for retail giant's out-of-town store expansion

By Symon Ross

Supermarket giant Tesco is set to be refused planning permission for a new store at the edge of Ballyclare, denting its expansion plans.

While the Planning Service has not yet issued official notice that Tesco's application has been turned down, it is understood that Environment Minister Edwin Poots has told MLAs he intends to reject it.

A DOE spokesman said: "The minister has considered the application and it is expected a Notice of Opinion from the department will issue at the earliest possible opportunity."

If confirmed, the decision would be the second major blow to Tesco's ambitions in Northern Ireland in the last six months after proposals to build a huge store close to Banbridge were also blocked. It is also awaiting a decision on another edge of town development in Ballycastle.

There had been opposition to Tesco's plans for Hillhead Road in Ballyclare from town centre traders and councillors.

In a joint statement, Glyn Roberts from the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association and Niall McConkey, president of Ballyclare Chamber of Commerce, said: "This is the right decision by the DOE minister. If this store had been granted planning permission, it would have resulted in significant loss of trade for Ballyclare town centre and a net loss of jobs. Small traders in Ballyclare town centre could not have competed on a fair basis with such a large out of town supermarket and would have faced closure.

"Both our organisations opposed this application, not because we are in any way anti-Tesco, but because we are anti out of town development. The place for these types of store is in our town centres."

Tesco said that, while it had received no formal notification from the Planning Service, it would "naturally be disappointed" if the application for a store that would have created 300 full and part-time retail positions and hundreds of construction jobs was rejected.

"It was hoped that this edge of centre store would encourage further regeneration and investment in the area," said Colin Hampsey, Tesco's corporate affairs manager in Northern Ireland.

"Feedback from the public, local representatives and other interested parties was broadly very positive. The majority saw the store as a welcome addition to Ballyclare, offering competition, a wider range of goods and hundreds of retail and construction jobs."