A public inquiry has been called to examine a planning application by Tesco to build a superstore in Londonderry.
The retail giant initially submitted plans to build a 25,000 sq ft superstore at Buncrana Road as far back as 2006 — but the Planning Office recommended permission be refused.
The inquiry is expected to bring a final resolution to the issue and was welcomed by those for and against the plans, which also included another retail unit and a home shopping delivery depot.
Councillor Tony Hassan said the issue has dragged on for too long. He added: “This is the latest move in a long saga for this application but the reality is the people living in the Buncrana Road area want this.
“Right now there is a huge site lying vacant which brings its own problems for the residents, including anti-social behaviour, and while the preferred option would have been for the site to be used for housing, that isn't going to happen.
“We have carried out many surveys and Tesco have done the same, which all show there is a will among the growing population for this store which will create hundreds of new jobs, not just in the construction phase but beyond that.
“There has been some suggestion by city centre traders that if this store was built it would mean job losses, but I don't accept that and if I thought that was the case for a second I would withdraw my support for it.
“The greater Shantallow area has a population in excess of 30,000 people.
“It’s a growing population and a number of new housing developments have been earmarked for the area over the next number of years, so there is a clear need for facilities such as this. People want jobs, they want investment and a modern shopping facility to service the community,” he added.
“A store here will also attract shoppers from Donegal who once they come as far as the Buncrana Road will then travel on into the city centre and further boost the economy.”
However Eamon Gee, a member of the Independent Traders Association, is less enthusiastic.
He said: “I have nothing against Tescos, Asda or any of these retail giants coming here but I am against them building in out-of-town sites.
“There are plenty of available sites in the town centre lying empty and while setting up on these sites may require them to be a bit more creative, it is nevertheless possible.”
A Tesco spokesman said: “We are committed to job creation in the city and pleased the process has moved to the next stages.
“There is great local support for our investment plans.”