The long running foodstore battle in Magherafelt appears to be over after the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC) upheld the decision to refuse three applications for ‘out of town’ supermarkets.
The decision was yesterday welcomed by Glyn Roberts of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA), who said the focus of the new Mid Ulster Council should now be on regenerating and securing the survival of the towncentre.
“Magherafelt has a very bright future now that these applications are out of the way,” he said, congratulating members of the local Chamber of Commerce for their firm stand against the developments.
“It already has a good retail mix in its centre and now is the time to concentrate on building this going into the 21st century,” Mr Roberts added.
But one of the developers, Merit Investments and Properties Ltd (Conway Group) claimed it sent a very negative message to those investors and companies seeking to generate new business and jobs.
The PAC’s ruling followed a five-day appeal hearing in the town back in March at which the three applicants were given the opportunity to challenge Mr Durkan’s decision to refuse their applications.
Mr Durkan gave the thumbs down to the plans in April 2014 because “of retail impact on a vibrant town centre, traffic impact and impact to neighbouring properties.”
The three developers, who have had to fork-out thousands of pounds in consultancy, planning and legal fees over the years, now appear to have reached the end of the road with regard to their foodstore ambitions.
Merit Properties Ltd were first to announce plans for a major supermarket complex at Moneymore Road, Magherafelt, in May 2010. Despite holding out the prospect of creating 200 jobs, it encountered objections from local householders, Chamber of Commerce and the former Magherafelt District Council.
In subsequent years plans for similar developments were revealed by Mid Ulster businessman Patsy Forbes at Castledawson Road, and Corbo Ltd at Ballyronan Road.
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In a statement, Merit Investments and Properties said: “Obviously we are disappointed that the Department of Environment has ultimately decided to refuse a new development opportunity, which would have brought much needed training, investment, jobs and economic regeneration in Magherafelt, as well as enhancing the retail attractiveness of the town to local shoppers.
“The Department’s decision and the extremely protracted nature and associated timescale which led to it, sends a very negative message to those investors and companies seeking to generate new business and jobs in the Magherafelt area.”