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Dublin Road retailing would have ‘negative impact’ on city centre, say planners

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

PLANNERS do not want to encourage retailing along the Dublin Road as it would have a "negative impact" on Newry City centre.

They were speaking as a planning application for the sub-division of an existing bulky goods warehouse to provide three ground floor retail units was refused at last week's planning committee meeting.

The majority of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Councillors who sit on the planning committee agreed with the planners that this type of development that was being sought "offended" the council's development plan.

Businessmen David and Michael Downey, who own Supervalu on Hill Street and on the Dublin Road, told the planning committee that they all they want to do is "grow a business and employ people".

They were applying for permission to "extend a parking and service area and sub-divide part of an established retail unit to incorporate three smaller units to be used for local neighbourhood purposes" at the same site as their Supervalu store on the Dublin Road.

The meeting heard from the council's Chief Planner, Anthony McKay, who said that the warehouses that are located on that site were first granted planning approval on the basis that they were for a warehouse or bulky goods.

Mr McKay said however that due to the "failings of the previous planning authority", that it had become a convenience retail outlet. He reiterated the point to the committee members, who had the ultimate decision on the application, that it was "not a local neighbourhood centre".

The meeting heard that the proposed extension to facilitate additional car parking would also take place on "zoned housing land".

Refusing the application, planners said that the proposed application site "is on land zoned for housing, it had not been demonstrated that a sequential town centre first approach had been applied as the site lies outside of the town centre and insufficient justification has been provided to justify the relaxation of this restriction and that the proposal conflicts with an up to date development plan".

"There is no justification in planning terms to extend that type of retail on that site," said Mr McKay.

An agent for the Downey brothers said that "no harm will be caused" by the granting of planning permission, however Mr McKay said that he would not agree with that statement.

The agent added that while there was nothing lined up for the units, they would be used for "local independent units that cater to local neighbourhood needs", such as a pharmacy, hairdressers or independent bakery.

Sinn Fein members Mickey Brady MP and Councillors Liz Kimmins and Sean Doran all sent in letters of support to the application.

Sinn Fein Councillor Michael Larkin, who sits on the planning committee, told his fellow councillors that he knew "the town centre comes first but we do see small retail units scattered throughout the outskirts in sub neighbourhoods."

He added that there has been an increase in the housing in that area over the years and that those householders "could be serviced by a neighbourhood outlet like this".

However Mr McKay said that the planners view remained the same.

"Our view is that this adhoc approach to changing the face of retailing on Dublin Road is something would not want to encourage.

"In planning terms we should be doing all that we can to protect the town centre and development plan."

The planning committee Chair DUP Councillor Garth Craig said that he did not think that the committee should "not be setting aside the development plan lightly but I am in your hands councillors".

His DUP colleague Councillor Glyn Hanna put if forward that the committee accept the planning officer's decision to refuse permission, which was seconded by UUP Councillor Jill Macauley.

Councillors Craig, Devlin, McAteer and Loughran were all in favour however Councillors Ruane, Larkin and Murnin were against it being refused, however the motion to refuse the application was carried.

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