Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Carnbane scheme: Uncertainty mounts over anchor tenant

A multi-million pound mixed used development in Newry could suffer a significant setback as speculation mounts that supermarket giant Asda is rethinking its decision to become the anchor tenant of the controversial new retail and business park.

The 15-hectare project is poised to include a mix of 70 light industrial and business starter units, 14 social housing homes, a coffee shop and associated landscaping as well as a retail food store. With Sainsbury’s and Tesco already operational in the city, Asda had been strongly rumoured to be the most likely contender for the site. Developer Hill Partnership, a family owned business run by father and son team Eamon and Laurence Breen, has said the development will create 400 permanent jobs locally and £7.1 million in construction wages.

The developers were given the go ahead for the project last July after a judicial review taken by the Newry Chamber of Commerce and Trade was dismissed at the High Court.  At the time Laurence and Eamon Breen said they had been vindicated by the review going in their favour and slammed Newry Chamber for a “dereliction of duty” in delaying the development.

While Asda has never openly confirmed its interest in the Carnbane Way location, a  spokesperson for the retail giant, commenting when the project was first given the green light back in summer 2014, said the company was  “interested in opening a store in Newry.

“We are currently reviewing our options to enable us to deliver Asda’s great range of quality products at affordable prices to shoppers in the town,” the spokesperson added.

Now it seems the Newry project has hit another complication with widespread conjecture that Asda may not proceed with the store, as part of its decision to also reconsider other sites in Northern Ireland.

The supermarket also looks set to pull the plug on plans for a new £25m store in Monkstown, near Newtownabbey, a site that was earmarked to create up to 300 new jobs there. During a visit to Northern Ireland in January, Asda Chief Executive Andy Clarke said that economically, Northern Ireland was a “more challenging” place to do business than other parts of the UK.

“The Northern Ireland market continues to be important, offering great potential, [but]the wider UK market context may mean that we have to re-assess our involvement in some developments,” the chief executive said.

Commenting on current speculation about its plans for the Newry site, an Asda spokesperson said,

“While the retail market continues to face one of its most challenging periods ever, Asda remains committed to considering all new opportunities where they reflect our ongoing strategy.”