Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has refused four major retail applications in Magherafelt.
All four applications are located out of town and include proposals for large foodstores.
Locations for the proposed developments are the Moneymore Road, Castledawson Road, Thornhill Avenue and Ballyronan Road.
All were designated Article 31 applications meaning they are of such significance that the final decision rests with the Minister.
Mark H Durkan said: “Magherafelt has a strong and vibrant town centre, with one of the lowest levels of retail vacancy in Northern Ireland.
“There is already a strong retail provision with a mix of local independent traders and main food providers. This needs to be protected which is why, after careful consideration, I am refusing all four applications.”
“There is already a Tesco operating outside the town centre and I believe the town centre could not survive another main food retailer at an out of centre location without having a detrimental impact on existing businesses.”
“Protecting the town centre was not my only consideration in making these decisions. Road safety, impact on the environment and residents were all significant factors.
“Pedestrian and road safety are important considerations for all towns. There are a number of schools in close proximity to Magherafelt town centre so I am particularly conscious of it here. There are existing traffic problems within Magherafelt, particularly the Diamond and I felt each proposal would further aggravate this problem.”
“Retail planning policy is not solely focused on the impact to town centres. The use must also be appropriate to the surrounding area and I was not persuaded that this was the case with all the applications. Large foodstores and their associated high levels of car parking would not have been in keeping with the predominantly residential character of the surrounding area and would also have had a significant impact on neighbouring properties.”
The Minister concluded: “These decisions announced today are all shaping a planning system that delivers for business but not at the expense of our environment, planet or people. A system that builds a better environment and a stronger economy.”