Development firm launches vitriolic attack on Newry Chamber

November 10, 2014

A row has erupted over the proposed construction of a retail and business park on the outskirts of Newry after the firm behind the development accused the city’s Chamber of Commerce and Trade of being “cynically selfish” by initiating legal action to block the project.

It has emerged that the Chamber has decided to seek leave for a judicial review of the decision to grant planning permission for the £47million development at Carnbane Way.

Hill Partnership branded the legal action a “pathetic last-ditch attempt” to delay the scheme and one which will cost hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal fees, while jeopardizing the city’s economy as a whole.

In a strongly worded statement, Neil Armstrong from Hill Partnership, said the “selfish legal route strategy” sends out the message that Newry is “closed for business” and the move will only serve to cause further economic hardship in the area.

He accused those behind the decision of protecting their own “vested interests” and being “puppet masters” in a campaign of opposition he described as a “smokescreen of misinformation built around scaremongering”.

In a no-holds-barred verbal attack against the Chamber’s court action, Mr Armstrong said the move “simply defies belief” and he called on its members to explain to the public why it is prepared to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on, what he termed, “a futile exercise” while delaying the creation of hundreds of jobs.

“There are people, sadly, that appear to want to put self-protectionism above the greater good of the Newry community.  By trying to protect their own interests these people have shown that they are prepared to jeopardise Newry’s position as the top destination for cross-border shopping,” he said.

“By trying to hold up a £47 million investment, 800 jobs and £7.9 million in annual wages, they have clearly shown they are prepared to sacrifice that level of human and financial investment going directly into the local economy.

“The decision by the Chamber to seek leave for a judicial review of the development is a blatant attempt to protect vested interests.  But by doing so it is effectively sending out that Newry is closed for new business and investment.

“Meanwhile their short-sighted action has to be viewed against the backdrop of Banbridge celebrating the arrival of a new Tesco store at The Outlet and the fact that it is attracting huge numbers of cross-border shoppers and shoppers from Newry,” he added.

Mr Armstrong said it is clear that “selfish and self-serving interests” were prepared to try and manipulate the legal system in a bid to simply delay work starting at Carnbane Way.

“Just a few weeks after it was confirmed that nearly a hundred more jobs have been lost from our city as a result of the closure of the HMRC offices, we have the astonishing news that the Chamber, at all costs, is determined to pursue its own agenda,” he declared.

“Against that sad backdrop, there can be no logical reason for backing a campaign that will cause further economic hardship. It simply defies belief.”

Claiming that not everyone within the Chamber is opposed to the scheme, he continued: “One has to ask who is actually pulling the strings within the Chamber and who the puppet masters are actually working for?  Is it really for the benefit of the people of Newry or is it to help a select small number of individuals?

“Our project has been subject to the most rigorous examination at every level of the planning and legal process over the last five years.  We are confident that our application, which already has been given full planning permission and has full Ministerial support, will deliver for the entire community.”

The Examiner contacted Newry Chamber of Commerce and Trade seeking its response to the claims made by Hill Partnership, however a spokesperson said the organisation’s would not be responding at this time.