A public enquiry into Environment Minister Mark H. Durkan’s decision to refuse three out-of-town supermarkets in Magherafelt is due to open tomorrow.
Three developers are appealing the Minister’s ruling on the grounds the proposed developments would have “a negative impact on trade in a strong and vibrant town centre.”
Plans had been submitted for developments at Moneymore Road, for Merit Investments (Conway Group); Ballyronan Road (Corbo Ltd), and Castledawson Road (Forbes Furniture Group).
The hearing is taking place at InVolve House, Queen Street, Magherafelt, and could last for four days.
The developers will be given an opportunity to challenge the Minister’s Article 31 refusal before a panel of commissioners who will then make recommendations to the Environment Department, which will have the final decision.
The Planning Commission, announcing the enquiry last summer, also invited business owners and other interested parties to have their say at the hearing.
The Northern Ireland Independent Retailers Trade Association (NIITRA) and the towns Chamber of Commerce had mounted a strong campaign against the out-of-town developments, and welcomed Mr Durkan’s decision last April to refuse them.
They claimed they would not create new jobs and “would displace and destroy existing retail jobs and close traders in Magherafelt town centre.”
On the other hand, the appellants have argued that their developments will bring jobs to the town and boost the local economy. One of them described it as “an investment in the future” of Magherafelt.