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Tesco submitted eleventh hour objection over new Monkstown Asda to council

A new £17.5m Asda supermarket in Newtownabbey, which will see the creation of around 250 jobs, has been given the green light.

The Planning Committee of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council gave the application the go-ahead at a meeting on Monday evening.

The long-running planning application was first submitted to the local authority for consideration in September 2018.

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The supermarket chain has been seeking permission for the demolition of the former Nortel factory which closed in 2009 and construction of a new 40,000 sq ft food store, filling station and car park at Doagh Road in Newtownabbey.

Access to the store which is proposed for the site at Monkstown Industrial Estate, from Doagh Road, will be facilitated by a new £1.25m roundabout to replace Doagh Road and Monkstown Road junction.

The council’s head of Planning, John Linden, told the meeting that the application had received 25 objections and 14 letters of support.

Supporters, including East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson, were reportedly in favour of the removal of an “eyesore” with the site “returned to positive use” and improvement to the Doagh Road/Monkstown Road junction as well as the creation of new jobs.

Objections related to loss of land for economic development citing a need for manufacturing jobs and retail-related opposition which suggested there was “no quantiative need” for the proposal which would have an “adverse impact” on on existing stores in the locality and that an alternative site had not been fully considered.

There were also concerns over the level of traffic that would be generated and disruption caused by roadworks during construction.

An eleventh hour letter of objection was received yesterday afternoon from supermarket chain Tesco.

Commenting on the recommendation to approve the application, Mr Linden said: “Overall it meets the relevant policy provisions and will result in the loss of a very small area of land for employment use.

“The benefit of the jobs created will outweigh the loss of industrial business use of the site.”

He added that the impact on the Tesco store at Abbeycentre would be considered “marginal” and would not have an adverse impact.

He went on to say that 100 jobs would be created during construction and 200 plus jobs would be created in-store.

Alderman John Smyth asked why Tesco is “so much against this development”.

He was told by Tesco representative Martin Robeson that “Tesco is not against competition”.

He said that there has to be a “level playing field” and “fairness in operation of the planning system”.

“We have to try to develop stores that will be accessible to the whole community not just those with cars,” he added.

He went on to say that the Northcott branch of Tesco is “an emerging store” and “still building up its trade”.

Asda representative Joe McDonald told the meeting that the application “represents a multi-million inward investment and a significant number of new jobs”.

Ald Smyth asked about loss of trade for existing businesses in the catchment area.

Mr Linden said that findings show that “there would not be a significant impact”.

The proposed development has been strongly opposed by Retail NI which issued a statement after the meeting.

Retail  NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said: “This is a kick in the teeth for local independent retailers struggling with the pandemic and is a clear breach of the town centre first retail planning policy.

“It is a shameful decision based upon exaggerated claims of new jobs being created and completely ignored the concerns of local independent retailers and small businesses.

“As we have seen before with countless other out-of-town superstores, 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.

‘Out-of-town retail development, due to poor historical planning decisions, is the main reason Northern Ireland has the highest town centre retail vacancy rate in the UK. Given that our high streets are facing a very uncertain future, granting permission for another out-of-town superstore is the very last thing they need.

“The alleged employment benefits will simply result in the displacement of existing retail jobs. Local shops reduce the need for travel and promote social interaction for the elderly members of the community; they are the life blood of neighbourhoods and must be robustly protected.”

An Asda spokesperson said: “Asda is delighted to have received planning permission for the store. The process has been lengthy, reflecting the careful assessments carried out by the council, its officers and independent advisers.

“The planning committee’s decision follows the overwhelming support for the development which we received during our public consultation.”

The proposal was approved after seven Planning Committee members voted in favour of the development with Antrim councillors Ald Smyth and Councillor Roisin Lynch, against.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

Click here to read: Ballyclare Poundland store to close early March

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