Liverpool home bargain giant TJ Morris has expressed frustration over red tape it says is holding up a £6million investment that will see the 100 new jobs created and the long disused Budget DIY site on the Strand Road back into use.
Representatives from the company, which trades as Home Bargains, have written to the chief executive of Derry City and Strabane District Council John Kelpie, to complain that it is paying out tens of thousands of pounds in rates but it still unable to trade because a transport assessment has yet to be evaluated.
A spokesperson told this paper: “The opening of Home Bargains in the city centre will create 100 jobs for the local community.
“To put that job creation in context, the old Budget DIY building closed in 2006 with a loss of 30 jobs. B&Q in Derry is due to close soon with the loss of a further 60 jobs.
“This application alone redresses the job losses from those two retail closures in one go but in a sustainable City Centre location.
“At present, TJ Morris are paying £18,000 per month in rates to the Derry and Strabane District Council. Once occupied full business rates will be payable which will be a significant income boost for the council.
“There has been no local objection from any retailers to this application.”
The company believes a its application has a good chance of approval if a transport assessment is accepted.
The spokesperson added: “TJ Morris consultants have worked with the council planning officers and have now been informed that the application will be recommended for approval when given clearance from Transport NI (TNI).
“TJ Morris consultants have submitted a Transport Assessment to TNI, despite this not being needed. They have sought to work with TNI to resolve matters as much as possible over the last six months.
“However, it appears that there may not be a response from TNI for another 3 months. This appears to be an unreasonable given the uncontroversial nature of the proposal and the clear benefits it will have for the city.
“TJ Morris are very concerned that this timescale could slip even further given the pressures being placed on public sector resources at present.
“To put this into context, a 3 month delay equates to approximately £54,000 payable in rates for a City Centre building whose vacancy was identified by the Department of Environment as being of great concern in 2012.
“The site has fallen into further disrepair in the subsequent three years and is detracting from this entrance into the city. TJ Morris is unhappy that the site is in the state it is.”
“TJ Morris wish to regenerate this site as soon as possible and in fact our architectural and construction team have carried out as much work prior to permission being granted as possible.”
A spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane District Council confirmed that correspondence has been received from TJ Morris regarding the traffic impact assessment at the Budget DIY site.
Council is currently liaising with Transport NI regarding the issue and it is hoped that the plans for the site can be progressed in the coming weeks.