‘We’ve too many shops, Tom’s right; get life science jobs in’

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The owner of Londonderry’s original science park has weighed in behind a fellow businessman’s call for the old Arntz site to be zoned for high-end manufacturing, saying we don’t need any more superstores in the city, rather, decent-paying manufacturing jobs, that will put pounds in people’s pockets.

Patrick Shortall, the Managing Director of Peninsula Construction and Peninsula Hi-Tech, which owns the Ulster Science and Technology Park (USTP) in Springtown, said we have enough shops already but not enough cutting edge R&D and science plants.

He made the comments after Tom Bradley used this paper to suggest the old Arntz site at Pennyburn Pass could be zoned for ‘Life Science’ firms, which generally recruit for high-end , well-paying positions.

Mr Shortall, has written to the local planning office, outlining his conviction that Londonderry is already saturated with big retail.

Last month he wrote: “Irrespective of any further submissions or altered plans by the Arntz Belting Co. to build a superstore of 60,000 square feet in size, the city of Derry and its environs has no need of this store or any further grocery store for the foreseeable future.

“The facts are the existing hierarchy of shopping space is in excess of the needs of the city.

“Cross border trade is operating for the past three years in reverse with sterling spending now into Donegal.

“The largest retailer in the world, Walmart, parent company of the supposed interest store touted as seeking location, has stated it is closing stores.”

Mr Shortall goes on to point out that his USTP at the corner of the Branch and Buncrana Roads has 180,000 square feet of vacant office space and that it and Arntz would be ideal for new R&D and ‘Life Science’ employers.

“Those buildings are in-situ and have the capacity to deliver a weekly income as distinct from another shopping centre seeking a weekly income from a city that is an economic basket case as existing traders will confirm. The city needs pay packets as any housewife’s common sense will confirm.”

Mr Shortall has gone sofar as to write to Peter FitzGerald, boss of hugely-successful over-the-counter diagnostics specialist Randox, which has plants in Antrim and Dungloe.

“I congratulate your vision and commitment to humanity worldwide in founding and building a healthcare company that now has a global reach,” he wrote last year.

“I would like to see your company expand its manufacturing base to the North West City of Derry, where companies like Seagate have found intellectual knowledge base that has made its research development and manufacturing site on the Buncrana Road on land provided by Peninsula in 1991 their most important R&D site outside their headquarters in Pittsburgh.

“Former industrial Fruit of the Loom land on the Buncrana Road and also industrial zoned 15 acres on the Buncrana Road contiguous to Magee university campus are ideal manufacturing sites that could meet your vision of ‘innovation through people, through knowledge and through technology.’”

Mr Shortall and Mr Bradley’s message to medical science specialists, in other words, is, we have the space, come and get it.