Newry Chamber of Commerce & Trade is questioning why it is waiting for almost one week on a response from Minister Durkan for an urgent meeting to discuss the out of town planning approval at Carnbane Way. The Newry business community feels extremely let down by the lack of response from the Minister and the process by which Newry & Mourne made its decision to support the proposal. It appears a decision was taken to send a letter of support for the project in August 2013 when it had not been discussed at Council level since 2011. The development which includes a stand alone food store, 70 business units and a small element of housing flies in the face of his recent Planning Policy Statement on ‘Town Centre First’ launched in February. His decision on the Newry out of town development totally contradicts recent comments he made about protecting the vitality of town centres; comments he made when declining out of town applications in his own county of Derry in April; the Minister’s inconsistencies in his approach to planning must be severely challenged.
Newry Chamber is also questioning the role of Karen McKevitt’s enthusiastic championing of this proposal as its outside her constituency and seems at odds with her role as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister.
Newry Chamber is gravely concerned about the future of Newry if this development proceeds. It will have devastating consequences for the future vitality and vibrancy of the city centre. It will drain the lifeblood away from tradition shopping precincts, such as Hill Street and Monaghan Street; and will draw trade from the shopping centres all of which bear the scars of the global recession and changing consumer habits, with empty units peppered throughout the City. It will lead to the widespread closure of our independent retail stores and family owned businesses, creating mass unemployment and a deserted and derelict City Centre – this is not scaremongering; this is the brutal facts of out of town developments; of which there are multiple examples throughout the UK, Ireland and beyond.
The developer has conveniently included 70 business units as part of the proposals to comply with zoning; most of which come in phase two of the development, after the food store is created. Newry is already well serviced by Newry & Mourne Enterprise Agency’s and others provision of similar units for new start businesses. There is currently an oversupply of same. What will become of these business units when the developer is unable to fill them; should the developer ever proceed to construction phase – change of use to retail, no doubt!
We have to question the decision of local politicians who support this application, even though it contradicts Party Policy and their mandate for the recent local Government elections. Are they that blind sighted by the developer’s propaganda of new jobs? Wake up, smell the coffee before it is too late – there are no new jobs; out of town developments create a net job loss or job displacement at best! The loss in rates revenue from City Centre traders as they close unable to compete with this major retail development on the outskirts of the City will have a detrimental impact on future Newry & Mourne Council finances.
We, in Newry Chamber are pro-business and pro-development. We want to see major retailers such as ASDA coming to Newry and adding to our retail offering. We have over 70acres of prime development opportunity sites within the City Centre as per the area plan; these sites must be developed before out of town sites are given the opportunity to destroy the heart and sole of Newry City.