Lidl's plan for Newcastle shop given green light
Lidl is closing in on a new store in Newcastle after planning officials in Co Down gave the supermarket chain the thumbs up to demolish a former school.
The old St Mary's Girls Primary School on Shan Slieve Drive will also house a new-build centre for the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team under the proposal by the German supermarket chain.
Officials at Newry, Mourne and Down Council have already said the plan should go ahead, with councillors on the local authority's planning committee due to consider the recommendation next Wednesday.
The former school had previously be mooted as a potential location for a new council-owned leisure centre in Newcastle.
But it was Lidl who proved the highest bidder for the three acre site when the Catholic Church eventually sold the land in early 2016.
Lidl has operated from a store next to the Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle's listed former train station since 2001.
But the supermarket chain has said its Railway Street premises is no longer suitable for its growing business needs. It has 39 stores in the province.
A report compiled by council planning officials revealed that Lidl has been seeking an alternative town centre site in Newcastle for more than a decade without success. Approval for the new 24,000 sq ft foodstore will see it relocate to a largely residential area in the south of the seaside town, with Mourne Mountain Rescue moving into a 6,100 centre sq ft at the same location.
The application did attract opposition, with SDLP councillor Laura Devlin along with residents lodging their objections.
The support for the plan appeared to centre on the new facility it will provide for Mourne Mountain Rescue. Among those backing the application were the Sports Council for Northern Ireland and Mourne Rambling Group.
Recommending approval, planning officials said they had assessed the proposal against various planning policies and considered all representations.
The report concluded: "It is found that the proposal is acceptable in planning terms and approval is recommended."
Conor Boyle, regional director for Lidl Northern Ireland, said: "Lidl NI welcomes the recommendation from local planners with regard to our proposed new store in Newcastle.
"We've engaged with the local community extensively on this proposal and look forward to the next stages in the planning process."