Concerns over new Outlet plans

The Outlet, Banbridge, retail,

There is concern that new plans to expand The Outlet in Banbridge – aimed at reviving the fortunes of the ailing retail park – will draw footfall from the town centre.

The unveiled £8 million investment involves The Outlet, owned by Ulster Bank, switching  some if its use to leisure and consolidating the retail offering. With almost a third of shop units vacant at the retail park, the new proposals include an eight screen cinema,  7,000 sq ft indoor children’s play area and two restaurants.

Property consultants behind the plans, The Lotus Group, believe that the proposals will bring The Outlet’s leisure offer in line with other UK retail parks that have had to adapt to changing customer needs and help reduce the vacancy rate to 10 per cent. It is also hoped that the move will create a further 200 jobs.

“Our research demonstrates that visitors expect a mix and vibrancy of uses for what is often a family day out, said Alastair Coulson of the Lotus Group. This is something we can offer by consolidating the retail offering and introducing a leisure element to the scheme to create a family friendly destination.”

He added: “The Outlet already has excellent links with Banbridge town centre and we are confident that this change of use will inject a new energy into the project which will secure the jobs of 500 local people and create up to 200 more. We have already seen the success that W5 Lite and new restaurants have brought to the centre and the new proposals will build upon those successes to help safeguard ‘The Outlet’s future.”

However, local retailers believe that this development at The Outlet – along with the new 60,000 sq ft Tesco Extra store – planned to open this year on the same site, will simply draw footfall away from the main street.

Glyn Roberts of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail trade Organisation said: “We are concerned that the new plans will adversely affect existing jobs and small businesses in Banbridge as it will draw footfall and therefore trade away from the town centre.”

If passed, regeneration plans at The Outlet could be completed by early 2015.

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