Gambling ‘oasis’ would keep business in Derry

Gaming machines.
Gaming machines.

The development of a gambling complex in the former Dunnes Stores area in the Richmond Centre, would bring a long-disused city centre floorspace back into use while keeping business that would otherwise be traded across the border in Derry, a court has heard.

These were among the observations made by Judge Elizabeth McCaffrey in her County Court judgment granting Newtownabbey-based Oasis Retail Services Ltd., approval for an amusement permit in Shipquay Street despite the objections of Derry City & Strabane District Council.

A copy of Judge McCaffrey’s appeal decision, which followed a DC&SDC permit refusal, has been circulated this month to the Council’s Assurance, Audit and Risk, and Health and Community, committees for information.

The judgment points out that the council’s claim that the proposed complex was not in keeping with the ‘City Centre Development Plan’ was contradicted by a decision of the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC), which was decided in accordance with the Derry Area Plan.

The PAC also found that the development of the amusement arcade would not “adversely affect the retail character of Shipquay Street,” noted Judge McCaffrey.

She stated: “It seems completely desirable that city centre premises should be occupied and open for business, rather than shuttered and closed.”

The council had further objected to the potential congregation of youths.

But Judge McCaffrey found it was “unclear that there is any real problem with youths congregating in the area, apart from times when catching buses or visiting the Richmond Centre, which had no direct access to the subject premises.”

And in relation to the council’s contention that there was no need for another gaming centre in the city centre, she found: “The council view seems to have been more that it did not consider more gaming premises were morally desirable. However, I also take on board that there are premises in Bridgend, Co. Donegal, which attract a considerable percentage of their trade from Northern Ireland customers and it would be preferable if that business remained in local businesss, on this side of the border.”