Proposed service station “will decimate” existing business, objectors claim
A newly established group opposing the proposed construction of a motorway service station facility off the A1 at Newry claims it “will decimate” existing businesses, leading to job losses and business closures, if planning is approved.
A spokesperson for the ‘Dublin Road Services Operators Group’, made up of representatives from roadside service operators and businesses primarily located along Newry’s Old Dublin Road, says they have come together to raise awareness of the “damage” the Maxol facility would have upon their local rural community, should the current recommended decision to refuse the application be overturned.
Speaking on behalf of the Dublin Road Services Operators Group, business owner James McKevitt said: “Many of our businesses have operated for over forty years on this stretch of the Dublin Road. We have supplied local employment through the worst of the Troubles, we have continually paid Rates to the Council through the toughest of economic periods, and we have never stopped providing service to both the commuter and our local community in all that time. Yet the Council Planning Committee are considering overturning their own Planners and putting existing local economic generation in danger.”
The Dublin Road Services Operators Group believe that, rather than benefitting the local, the MAXOL scheme would in fact decimate several local businesses and the rural community around them. And that to date the Planning Committee have yet to make any real effort to identify this adverse impact.
Colm Quinn is employed in one of the businesses located on the Dublin Road and he voiced his opposition to the scheme: “We recognise how enticing such an application is to the Council, in regards to headline employment figures, development values, and rates payable, and this may appeal to short-term thinkers. However the offer of jobs makes no mention of the similar number to be lost in a high unemployment rural area. The development value promised has no reference to the losses of capital investments already made by local business people. And the overall Rates value payable to the Council will diminish when rural businesses close as a direct consequence of this scheme.”
Local resident Laurann Crilly also spoke out against approval being granted.
She said: “In my opinion the South Armagh region, particularly the rural border area continues to play second fiddle to the City when it comes to investment and job creation. Why is our council even considering a scheme that will put established jobs in jeopardy. It is very short sighted and disrespectful to the local people.”
Group member Barry McKevitt insists current businesses are doing more than enough to meet the demands of the motorway users and referred to a number of planned developments in the area.
He said: “Employing over eighty local people and providing services to both the commuter and local community, businesses along the Dublin Road are not standing still. They recognise the importance of providing the modern motorist and HGV driver with the modern expectation of facilities. Within the group there is a scheme for additional services being constructed, a multi-million roadside service facility at consultation stage and several significant schemes in final draft with planning applications to be submitted imminently.
“We believe the Dublin Road Economic Service Corridor can create a similar number of jobs in the coming years without cannibalising jobs of the most vulnerable. We can develop upon existing infrastructure sustainably and will make a similar overall financial investment as the applicant. And furthermore, as a direct result of our own local schemes the Council can expect to receive a collective higher Rates amount from local businesses,” he added.
There are also concerns that, should the Maxol facility be given the go ahead, it may lead to the downgrading of the Old Dublin Road as a cross border route, a move that could have catastrophic effects in the wake of Brexit.
The group stated that fears are growing over the possibility of “the return of road closures” with both the UK and EU governments strongly stating that some form of border control will be implemented as a result of Brexit. In order to effectively monitor and control trade it is expected that the number of crossing points will be reduced, affecting many non-primary routes.
The existing Service Area is strategically located alongside the A1/N1 motorway/trunk road and is presently classified as a primary route that provides for motorway traffic, in addition to the local community. Strong opposition locally and nationally to any closure or positioning of a Customs Checkpoint along this stretch of road proactively continues, however the close proximity of the Maxol application to the existing Service Area,and the obvious duplication of service offerings, would reduce the importance of the old Dublin Road in supporting the National Road Network and result in its subsequent downgrading to a non-primary route.
As a direct result of any Service Area and duplication of service offering existing less than 12 miles from the border crossing, either the UK or EU governments will be provided with greater justification to close or restrict traffic movements on the resulting non-primary route. Such restrictions would be devastating to the local community, the group insists.
The Dublin Road Services Operators Group is urging the Council Planning Committee to recognise the negative impacts this application will have on the local landscape and community, to respond to identified concerns raised by objectors and uphold the Planning Board’s decision to reject the application.