Environment Minister Alex Attwood has said he will not be rushed into making planning decisions that will “shape shopping in Derry for a generation”.
In revealing that only a fraction of the planning applications for nine major retail stores across the city will be given the green light, the Minister said he will do what “is right” to meet the needs of everyone in the city.
Speaking at the launch of an “unprecedented retail study” on Derry in the city on Friday, Mr Attwood said that the final decisions on the major planning submissions - which include applications for Tesco, Sainsbury and Asda superstores - would not be taken lightly.
And he confirmed: “A “smaller number and not a greater number of the applications will be given approval.”
“Derry City is the main shopping destination in the North-West and decisions on the current retail applications will define the future of Derry’s retail offering for many years to come.
“These are not decisions that can be taken lightly and this study will greatly assist me in making the right decisions for Derry,” he said.
Prospective developers involved in the major applications for large scale retail space at the respective locations - Buncrana Road, Caw, Crescent Link (3 submissions), Rossdowney Road, Springtown, Drumahoe - have been invited to comment on the new study before final decisions are taken.
Mr Attwood said that he would take into account all the factors - which includes support from various politicians for major investment by big retailers, the huge volume of cross border shoppers travelling to Derry, and vociferous opposition from independent traders in Derry city centre.
However, the granting of any of the major out-of-town submissions will have a “massive” detrimental effect on Derry city centre, independent traders have said.
Glynn Roberts, of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, told the ‘Journal’: “We need to see what the decisions are at the end of this process but for us all nine applications are unacceptable.
“Should any number of them get through then it would be a very significant threat to trade in Derry city centre where independent traders are already struggling to survive.”
Mr Roberts also hit out at the Environment Minister for not inviting local traders’ representatives to the launch of the new document in the city.
“It was disappointing not to even be invited to the launch of something which is so important for the future of trade in Derry city centre. Even though the minister did say he was committed to Derry city centre, it was very disappointed not to be invited.”
Copies of the Derry retail study are available for inspection in the Area Planning Office in Derry and Belfast and copies are also available upon request.