Proposed Asda Superstore will destroy jobs, Retail NI warns

Proposed Asda Superstore will destroy jobs, Retail NI warns
Glyn Roberts

Retail NI has urged Antrim and Newtownabbey Planning Committee to refuse planning permission for a major 70,000 sq. ft. out of town supermarket.

The proposed superstore and petrol filling station on existing industrial land in Monkstown Industrial Estate will be discussed by the committee when they meet to consider the application in the New Year.

The business group has written to the Department for Infrastructure citing concerns that this application has been pre-determined and is going to be granted for ‘political’ reasons, rather than complying with planning policy and the Local Development Plan. There are also significant roads issues, which remain unresolved, and to which the public and local residents are blissfully unaware.

Retail NI has also written to all Antrim and Newtownabbey Councillors and local MPs and MLAs to outline its concerns with the application and the impact it will have on local jobs.

The Council employed independent retail consultants, Nexus Planning, to examine the application. They recommended it should be refused, as there is no need for it and alternative town centre sites exist. However, the Council appears to be looking at this proposal favourably, despite previously recommending it for refusal in January 2017.

Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said: “Retail NI is of the clear view that this out-of-town superstore application is in clear breach of the current Town Centre First Retail Planning policy and may be granted for short-term political reasons”

“Planning Policy and not politics must be the only criteria.

“Retail NI would urge Antrim and Newtownabbey Council to adhere to planning policy and not undermine and prejudice their Local Development Plan, by refusing this application. As we have seen before with countless other out-of-town superstores, applications like these always destroy and displace existing town centre retail jobs. Newtownabbey has a distinctive retail environment with a significant number of local neighbourhood retailers who are the life blood of the community. These facilities will be jeopardised, and job losses will occur if permission is granted.

‘Out-of-town retail development is the main reason why Northern Ireland has the highest town centre retail vacancy rate in the UK, due to some historic poor planning decisions. This type of retail application belongs in the past and will do nothing long-term to benefit the local economy or Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough.

“We would urge Councillors not to be swayed by exaggerated claims of new jobs being created by this proposed store. Should the Council vote in favour of this application then it would make a mockery of the entire planning regime and Local Development Plan.

“The Council needs to stand up for their local independent retailers and refuse this application”