Environment Minister Alex Attwood has today vowed to “protect the vitality and viability of existing town and city centres, both in Derry and throughout the North”.
Speaking during a visit to Derry where he revealed decisions on five major retail applications for the city, Minister Attwood announced three Article 31 refusals (applications decided by the Minister) namely: a large superstore at Crescent Link; a retail led proposal at Drumahoe and a major retail proposal at Buncrana Road. The Minister is also recommending to Derry City Council that a smaller retail proposal at the Buncrana Road site is also refused.
Of the five applications announced today, the Minister decided to issue only one approval, for a new Asda store on the site of the current Homebase at Crescent Link.
Speaking from Planning division offices at Orchard House, Mr Attwood said: “Decisions that will define Derry’s retail future for many years to come could not be taken lightly. I had to make sure I got these decisions right so this has been a thorough and robust process. I have carefully considered the recently published retail study and had numerous meetings with prospective developers, city centre traders and other key stakeholders. I have made it very clear that I intend to protect the vitality and viability of existing town and city centres, both in Derry and throughout the North.
“The DOE has played a central, positive role in the development of the city. Planning decisions on hotels, Fort George, Ebrington, the new Bridge and many besides, show a firm commitment to help shape the city for the future.
“DOE interventions – and increasing interventions on protecting the built heritage and addressing decay and dereliction - are further examples of this commitment. Today’s announcements are further evidence of helping to best shape Derry, the retail offering and the wider development of the city in a strong and positive way.”
Minister Attwood said that a “precautionary approach consistent with law, policy and evidence .... to ensure protection of existing retail centres”, had helped inform his thinking.
“Based on a comprehensive retail assessment, my one approval creates the opportunity for retail spend to return to Derry which has gone outside the city, with new jobs and growth in the city,” he said.
The Minister continued: “My approach will increase the profile of Derry as the retail centre of the North West, attracting customers from across the area, both Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland.”