Newry Council votes against Carnbane Development

June 10, 2014

Newry and Mourne Council have voted to issue a letter to Environment Minister Mark Durkan stating that the recently granted planning application for a mixed-use major new retail development at Carnbane does not have the Council’s support.  The decision to send the letter was taken at last Thursday evening’s council meeting, following a motion by Sinn Fein.

Newry Armagh MP Conor Murphy, who has been vociferous in his party’s opposition to the out-of-town complex, revealed that the council would be urging the Minister to rescind planning permission for this development.

Commenting on the council decision,  Mr Murphy said;

“This Newry Council Planning Meeting was attended by members of Newry Chamber of Commerce and Trade who again outlined their opposition to this development.  It also provided the Sinn Féin team with an opportunity to take the next step in this campaign and propose that a letter be sent to Minister Mark Durkan stating unequivocally that Newry & Mourne Council opposes this development and that planning should be revoked.

“This course of action was proposed by Councillor Charlie Casey, seconded by Councillor Mickey Ruane and supported by all of the other 9 Sinn Féin councillors in attendance.  The vote was recorded and the outcome will be in the public domain and subject to the scrutiny of local people.

“As I have stated previously Sinn Féin is against this massive out of town retail development which will draw business from our town centre.  The SDLP in their election manifesto have purported to favour town centre development.  There is now an opportunity for Mark Durkan to re-examine his earlier decision and to withdraw planning permission.”

The vote to oppose the development and encourage a rethink of the MInister’s controversial decision to approve planning for the site, came after Hill Partnership, the developer behind the scheme claimed that the project has been supported throughout the planning process by Newry & Mourne District Council, with none of the political parties voting against the scheme.

“The Hill Partnership has been working closely with planners, the local Council and neighbours and residents in the area to ensure that this major investment has a positive impact on the City of Newry and its people. The social clauses demonstrate our commitment to creating local jobs for local people,” said Neil Armstrong, spokesman for the company.

“We have been working for over five years to deliver this scheme for the people of Newry. The initial plans for this scheme received a letter of support from Newry & Mourne District Council in May 2009. Following a meeting with planners during the planning process we took a decision to reduce the scale of the project in order to sustain the vibrancy of the City Centre.

“We removed the office blocks, and the leisure elements, which included a cinema and five restaurants, and scaled it back significantly to address any possible concerns relating to the City Centre. This was done to the satisfaction of the planners.

“We then went back to Newry & Mourne District Council with the revised plans and sought a letter of support from local councillors. The letter of support proposal was put to councillors and it was agreed to send a further letter of support. This scheme has always had the support of the local Council and we have always kept the Council informed throughout the planning process.”

Amid a backlash of outrage and opposition to the complex from political representatives and Newry Chamber of Commerce, Mr Armstrong maintained that the £47 million development will consolidate Newry’s position as the top retail destination for shoppers from the Republic of Ireland as well as provide 358 much-needed local construction jobs, resulting in £7.1million of Construction Wages and creating long-term employment for up to 400 people, resulting in annual wages of £6.9 million.

He revealed the scheme will have social clauses within its construction contract that ensure the labour and materials used in the building process will be sourced locally and south Down and south Armagh suppliers and tradesmen will benefit from the development.

The new development includes a mix of 70 light industrial/business units, 14 residential units, retail foodstore, a coffee shop and associated landscaping works.

According to Hill Partnership, the Foodstore Operator has signed up to a Local Employment Partnership Agreement, which assists the local long-term unemployed back to work.

Mr. Armstrong insisted the scheme is in line with the local Council’s ‘book-end’ strategy to develop the City and protect local and cross-border trade with retail development at both ends of the City. “Our scheme makes it attractive for more cross-border shoppers and shoppers from outlying areas to come to Newry to shop and do business throughout the whole City. Our scheme further enhances Newry’s reputation as a top retail and business hub. The foodstore element of the scheme will give consumers more choice and value for money.”

Meanwhile the Newry Chamber of Commerce, which has condemned the planning approval since its announcement last week,  has welcomed the council’s vote to oppose the out of town development.

Chief Executive of the Newry Chamber of Commerce, Orla Jackson said,

“This is a very important step along the road to get this disastrous decision overturned. The proposed development would have devastating consequences for the future vitality and vibrancy of the city centre.

“We, in Newry Chamber are pro-business and pro-development.  We want to see major retailers coming to Newry and adding to our current retail offering.  We have over 70 acres of prime development opportunity sites within the City Centre as per the area plan; these sites must be developed before out of town sites are given the opportunity to destroy the heart and soul of Newry City.”