Go-ahead for Banbridge Tesco store
Traders in Banbridge have said they are extremely disappointed with the Government's decision to grant planning permission for a huge Tesco superstore on the outskirts of the town.
In his last announcement as Environment Minister, Edwin Poots gave the go-ahead for the retail development at the Outlet, Bridgewater Park, less than a hour before his term officially ended on Thursday night.
Similar applications had been rejected twice before, most recently by Mr Poots 16 months ago.
While the planning permission granted is for a smaller store than originally envisaged, it will still be one of the biggest Tesco outlets in Northern Ireland. Banbridge traders had long campaigned against the development, claiming it would turn the town centre into a ghost town.
The town's chamber of commerce criticised the decision, but vowed to overcome the setback. Chamber of commerce president Joe Quail issued a joint statement with Glyn Roberts, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association.
It said: "While naturally both our organisations are both extremely disappointed with this decision, we must ensure that Banbridge town centre and its strong independent retail sector can move forward, despite this setback.
"Both our organisations fought a fair campaign over the past four years to highlight the dangers of this application but we must move on and look to the future.
"We will hold the developers to their word about building a bus station in Banbridge town centre and look to see what better linkages to the Outlet Centre can be developed to enhance footfall in Banbridge. Banbridge town centre has a terrific retail offering and we will continue our campaign to protect that for the benefit of the local community and the economy."
The planning permission is subject to a legal agreement which includes a clause that two new retail warehouse outlets and an industrial unit must be constructed before the Tesco store and a commitment from Tesco that it will keep its shop in Banbridge town open for the next 10 years. The firm has also agreed to fund an environmental improvement scheme in the town.
Mr Poots said the decision was "great news" for Banbridge, adding: "It represents major inward investment and will bring significant economic, social and environmental benefits to the area, including nearly 400 new jobs."