MAGHERAFELT’S ‘TROUBLED’ ESTATES UNITED OVER SHOPPING CENTRE PLAN

The site on the Ballyronan Road, Magherafelt, which has been granted planning permission.mm11-159ar.
The site on the Ballyronan Road, Magherafelt, which has been granted planning permission.mm11-159ar.

A COMMUNITY group leader is urging planners to give the go ahead for a major shopping centre close to two of Magherafelt’s most deprived housing estates.

Martin Loughran, chair of Killowen Neighbourhood Group, says the development by Ballymena businessman Sam Morrison at Ballyronan Road would “create jobs and give hope to many young people.”

Both he and Emma Paul, secretary of Leckagh Neighbourhood Group, have written to planners pleading with them to grant the application for the 50,000 sq foot development.

Although divided along sectarian lines over the years, Killowen and Leckagh have been working closely in recent months with Corbo to encourage the development which has been in the pipeline since last June.

“We would like the planners to grant this application as it is situated on our doorsteps and will bring much needed jobs,” said Mr Loughran.

“They (Corbo) have consulted with us from the scheme’s conception right up to date taking on board residents views and addressing concerns.”

Mr Loughran said the discussions between representatives of the two estates and Corbo has had a positive impact on community relations and has brought both estates closely together working for a common good.

The MAIL understands that the Environment Alex Attwood is not expected to rule on any of Magherafelt’s four major planning applications until later in the year.

One of the rivals to the Corbo application was submitted by almost two years ago by Merit Investments, a firm owned by the Magherafelt-based Conway family.

The development at Moneymore Road met with opposition from local residents who were supported by Magherafelt Council.

Some changes were made to the original Merit planning application in order to placate objectors and it remains on course.

The third plan involves demolishing the Forbes Furniture store on the Castledawson Road and building a supermarket in its place close to the existing Lidl store.

The final plan entails building on agricultural land between Thornhill Avenue and Oakvale Manor off Moneymore Road for RSL Developments.

Each of the developers will need to attract the support of a supermarket operator.

Tesco has already opened at the former Supervalu store on the Ballyronan Road and there is speculation that they plan to move to larger premises in the town at a future date.