Environment Minister Alex Attwood today announced decisions on five major retail applications in Londonderry.
The Minister has announced three Article 31 refusals (applications decided by the Minister) namely: a large superstore at Crescent Link; a retail led proposal at Drumahoe and a major retail proposal at Buncrana Road. The Minister is also recommending to Derry City Council that a smaller retail proposal at the Buncrana Road site is also refused.
Of the five applications announced today, Alex Attwood has decided to issue only one approval, namely a retail store on the site of the current Homebase at Crescent Link.
Alex Attwood said: “Decisions that will define Derry’s retail future for many years to come could not be taken lightly. I had to make sure I got these decisions right so this has been a thorough and robust process. I have carefully considered the recently published retail study and had numerous meetings with prospective developers, city centre traders and other key stakeholders. I have made it very clear that I intend to protect the vitality and viability of existing town and city centres, both in Derry and throughout the North.
“The DOE has played a central, positive role in the development of the City. Planning decisions on hotels, Fort George, Ebrington, the new Bridge and many besides, show a firm commitment to help shape the City for the future.
“DOE interventions – and increasing interventions on protecting the built heritage and addressing decay and dereliction- are further examples of this commitment. Today’s announcements are further evidence of helping to best shape Derry, the retail offering and the wider development of the City in a strong and positive way.
“The decisions are:
Article 31 REFUSAL: Major Retail at Drumahoe
Article 31 REFUSAL: Major retail on Crescent Link
Article 31 REFUSAL: Major retail on Buncrana Road
Article 31 APPROVAL: Retail at Homebase, Crescent Link
Recommendation to Derry City Council (not Article 31): Retail on Buncrana Road.”
Minister Attwood added: “What do these decisions confirm? First, the precautionary approach consistent with law, policy and evidence that I have argued for, in order to ensure protection of existing retail centres, has helped inform my thinking.
“Second, based on a comprehensive retail assessment, my one approval creates the opportunity for retail spend to return to Derry which has gone outside the City, with new jobs and growth in the City. Third, my approach will increase the profile of Derry as the retail centre of the North West, attracting customers from across the area, both Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland.”
Alex Attwood said that, in refusing the major retail application on Crescent Link, he recognised that there was a second mixed-use proposal for the same site.
Continuing Minister Attwood said: “It has been argued that a mixed-use development – not a stand-alone big retail development – would be a wider boost and jobs opportunity for the City. A mixed-use scheme – potentially smaller retail, cinema, health facilities and limited office space – may create the ‘wider boost’ which I know the City could benefit from.
“So I have refused the stand alone retail, but asked my planning officials to engage with the applicant and identify if an acceptable scheme can be brought forward. I have made it very clear that this should happen without delay, to enable me to decide very quickly in 2013 what should happen. Today there is one approval and four refusals but the potential of a second approval, shaped in the right terms, coming soon.”
Alex Attwood added: “Proposals for out of centre retailing deemed to adversely impact upon the vitality and viability of our high streets will not be permitted. I am personally committed to the regeneration of Derry City as the economic heart of the North West.
“My aim as Environment Minister is to ensure that Derry City is protected, whilst growing jobs and the local economy. I understand that retailers in the City face significant challenges in the current economic climate – these decisions take full account of that.”
There are currently four other major applications under consideration in Derry, some only more recently in the planning system.
The Minister concluded: “There is further work needed on four schemes and these will be viewed in light of the resultant impact of the decisions announced today. I hope to be in a position to announce these soon and bring further certainty to this Derry retail picture. I can give no indication on whether any of these will be viewed favourably, but the same precautionary approach will be deployed as has been the case to date.
“These decisions reflect my determination to clear the backlog of planning applications and see a planning system more fit to achieve its purpose.”
The Department will now consult Derry City Council on its opinion to refuse the smaller Tesco Buncrana Road application. All but one of the other applications were designated Article 31s (major planning applications) where the final decision rests with the Environment Minister.
Planning application A/2009/212/F was submitted to DOE Planning and Local Government Group on 23 March 2009. The applicant is Tesco Stores Ltd. This is located at land at the junction of Buncrana Road and Templemore Road, Londonderry. The application is for full planning permission for a food superstore of 3630m2 gross floorspace (net retail = 1,634m2 convenience goods and 638m2 comparison); a home shopping delivery facility (DOT Com); a non-food retail unit (bulky goods) of 2773m2 (net retail = 2382m2); an ATM; a CHP (Combined Heat and Power Unit); car parking and servicing arrangements; modification to access; landscaping and associated developments as outlined below, this is to be refused.
Planning application A/2010/0493/F was submitted on 9th July 2010. The applicant is Genova North West Ltd. The site is approximately 7.32 hectares and is located within Crescent Link Retail Park, on the Crescent Link Road, in Londonderry. This application was designated one of major importance under Article 31 of the Planning (NI) Order. The application is for full planning permission for the extension of the existing Homebase unit to facilitate the reconfiguration and creation of a new Class 1 foodstore with a mezzanine floor, underground car park and associated works. The proposal consists of a food store with gross floorspace of 7473m2 (3716m2 net); a reconfigured Homebase store and relocated garden centre with gross floorspace of 4431m2; and an underground car park with 314 spaces. A notice of approval is to be issued.
Planning application A/2004/0976/F for a large Tesco at Buncrana Road. This was submitted on 17 September 2004. It comprises a proposed foodstore, car parking and servicing arrangements, landscaping, access and associated development works. This application was designated one of major importance under Article 31 of the Planning (NI) Order. A Notice of Opinion to Refuse will be issued inter alia due to the size of the proposed food store (5415 sqm) which would lead to unacceptable traffic impact.
Planning application A/2010/0240/O. This was submitted to DOE Planning and Local Government Group on 12 April 2010. The applicant is GSB Guernsey Trading Ltd + GML (NI) Ltd. The site is located on Lands to the east of Crescent Link and north of Sevenoaks, Londonderry. This application was designated one of major importance under Article 31 of the Planning (NI) Order. A Notice of Opinion to Refuse will be issued, inter alia, as over 8000 sqm of floorspace make this too large in terms of trade diversion.
Planning application A/2009/0689/O at Drumahoe Industrial Estate, Drumahoe. This was submitted to DOE Planning and Local Government Group on 25 August 2009. It comprises a major mixed use regeneration development to include recreation, retail and healthcare facilities. This application was designated one of major importance under Article 31 of the Planning (NI) Order. A Notice of Opinion to Refuse will be issued as, inter alia, there is an impact on other retail centres along with traffic impact issues. There is also a lack of information in terms of natural heritage concerns and impact on the character of the area.