Minister to give Derry superstores green light

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Plans for at least two major shopping superstores in the Waterside are expected to be given the green light today.

Environment Minister Alex Attwood is to announce decisions on most of the nine major retail planning applications designed to define the future of shopping in the city at 11am.

The ‘Journal’ has learned that the front-runners in the battle for a slice of the Derry retail market include applications with proposals for an ASDA store at Crescent Link Retail Park and a Sainsbury’s store on a greenfield site adjacent to Lisneal College. However, it’s understood that the Orana Group application for outline planning permission on the greenfield site - which includes plans for a Sainsbury’s supermarket, hotel, cinema, medical facilities, offices, and accommodation - may only be granted subject to large-scale changes.

A decision on the much publicised and long-running plans for a Tesco superstore at Buncrana Road and proposals for a large-scale retail development at Gransha are also expected to be finalised by Mr Attwood this morning. Decisions will not be made on all nine of the major retail applications currently being considered as some - such as the plans for a retail centre on the current Niche Drinks site at Rossdowney Road - have not yet been fully advanced.

Sinn Fein Councillor Tony Hassan said last night he was hopeful that plans for a major retail development “to help regenerate the Shantallow area” would be approved. However, representatives of city centre traders said last night that the granting of permission to large out-of-town superstores would be a death knell for many shops in Derry. Following a meeting with Mr Attwood yesterday, Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association CEO, Glyn Roberts, and Chair of Derry City Centre Traders Forum, Martin McCrossan, said in a joint statement: “Shop vacancy rates in the city centre are at a record high and last thing that traders need is more out-of town-centres. These applications are wrong for the city and will result in a massive net loss of jobs.”

Both Mr Roberts and Mr McCrossan said their organisations are supportive of the redevelopment of the existing district shopping centres but would also like to see major superstores located in the city centre.

Planning applications for the redevelopment of the existing Lisnagelvin district shopping centre and Northside district shopping centre in Shantallow have already been given the go-ahead.

It’s understood that ASDA is in negotiation over a move to the redeveloped Northside site.