‘No delay’ on huge store plans: Attwood

PLANNING Minister Alex Attwood claims there has been ‘no delay’ in decisions on a range of large retail schemes in Londonderry including four potentially transformative schemes proposed for the Waterside.

Last week the Sentinel reported that Mr Attwood had missed the deadline date his Department had set him to make decisions on a series of major shopping developments including four huge schemes in the Waterside.

Mr Attwood was expected to make a decision on a series of Article 31 planning applications by November.

But Mr Attwood said progress has been made behind the scenes with the deposit of two retail submissions to his Department in November and that a further two are expected by this Friday. He said he wanted to avoid a ‘drip-feed’ of announcements.

He told the Sentinel: “I have previously said that I anticipated progress by the end of November. That has happened. Planning submissions on two of the Derry retail applications were forwarded to me on November 23, 2012.

“Submission on two more of the applications are due to be with me by today week (Dec 14).”

“It is my strong view that the best way to proceed is not a ‘drip feed’ of decisions - a couple now, a few later - but to announce a number of decisions together so that the ‘lie of the land’ in retail terms is clearly laid out.”

Last week the Sentinel reported how Caw Properties Ltd. was still waiting for a decision on its proposed 100-bed hotel and retail development at Gransha which is bigger in scale than phase II of the Foyleside shopping centre development.

Genova North West, the owners of the Crescent Link Retail Park, who want to bring Asda to the Waterside as an anchor tenant in a move it says will deliver a £30million boost to the local economy and provide 200 construction jobs and up to 350 jobs on completion, are also waiting.

D&A Properties Ltd is another company awaiting a decision for its proposed new 1,237 square metre food store at the dormant Desmond and Sons factory in Drumahoe.

And finally the retail element of what has been billed the biggest ever private investment in the Waterside area of Londonderry was also due last month.

GSB Guernsey Trading Ltd. and GML (NI) Ltd, are behind the plans to bring Sainsbury’s to the Crescent Link.

But Mr Attwood is sticking to his view that the best way foreward is to announce all the Londonderry decisions at once.

“That is what I will be doing - as I see it - this will let Derry know how I believe the future retail map can best be charted.

“There is no delay. I said in the recent Assembly adjournment debate on the issue that there would be progress before the end of November. “Papers were passed to me - shortly more will be passed to me, then decisions will be made and announced. I have to make sure I get these decisions right.

“That is why the process has been as thorough as it has been – but with papers now with me and more to come to me shortly, decisions will very soon be announced,” he stated.

Mr Attwood has been quizzed about a range of Article 31 applications by Alliance MLA Anna Lo.

He had explained that there were 36 current Article 31 applications and “as Environment Minister I have impressed on my planning officials the need to process planning applications, particularly those of major importance, in a timely manner.

“To that end, I have instructed my officials to bring to a conclusion older Article 31 applications in the near future.”

For the four Londonderry developments outlined above he had provided a “decision expected” date of November 2012.