Business owners opposed to a new £6 million roadside service station in Newry have warned that jobs will be lost and some – trading for over 40 years – may be forced to shut up shop if the plans are approved.
The development – which applicant Maxol says will create 140 new jobs, 80 during construction and 60 upon completion – will be back before Newry, Mourne and Down District Council’s planning committee later this month.
Last month the Freight Transport Association added its voice to the ongoing debate on the planned development as it submitted a letter of support.
The roadside services facility is proposed to be located off the A1 at the Carnbane Road Roundabout, Newry.
The planning application represents a multi-million pound investment and would deliver a large petrol station, shop and restaurant services. It would also include a children’s play area and picnic area, as well as car, coach, lorry and caravan parking to service motorway traffic travelling across the border.
Armagh I first revealed plans for the development two years ago.
Over recent weeks the proposals have been subject to intense discussions and considerations with the for and against camps both having their say.
A group representing other businesses in the area – under the umbrella of the Dublin Road Services Operators Group – has now made its views known in no uncertain terms.
It has informed council – ahead of the planning meeting – that the proposals would “decimate long established services on the Dublin Road, leading to imminent job losses and business closures”.
They say their aim is to “raise awareness of the damage upon their rural community any overturn by local councillors of the planners’ recommended refusal would have”.
Several of those involved in the group have spoken out to give their opinions ahead of the crunch meeting of committee.
Local business operator Daniel McKevitt said: “Many of our businesses have operated for over 40 years on this stretch of the Dublin Road.
“We have supplied local employment through the worst of the Troubles, we have continually paid rates to the council through the toughest of economic periods, and we have never stopped providing service to both the commuter and our local community in all that time.
“Yet the council planning committee are considering overturning their own planners and putting existing local economic generation in danger…”
The Dublin Road Services Operators Group believe that rather than benefiting the locale, the MAXOL scheme would in fact “decimate several local businesses and the rural community around them” and that to date the planning committee have yet to make “any real effort to identify this adverse impact”.
Dublin Road employee Colm Quinn said: “We recognise how enticing such an application is to the council, in regards to headline employment figures, development values, and rates payable, and this may appeal to short-term thinkers.
“However the offer of jobs makes no mention of the similar number to be lost in a high unemployment rural area. The development value promised has no reference to the losses of capital investments already made by local business people.
“And the overall rates value payable to the council will diminish when rural businesses close as a direct consequence of this scheme.”
Employing over 80 local people and providing services to both the commuter and local community, businesses along the Dublin Road insist they are not standing still and recognise the importance of providing the modern motorist and HGV driver with the modern expectation of facilities.
Within the group there is a scheme for additional services being constructed, as well as a multi-million roadside service facility at consultation stage and “several significant schemes in final draft with planning applications to be submitted imminently”.
Group spokesperson Barry McKevitt said: “We believe the Dublin Road Economic Service Corridor can create a similar number of jobs in the coming years without cannibalising jobs of the most vulnerable.
“We can develop upon existing infrastructure sustainably and will make a similar overall financial investment as the applicant. And furthermore, as a direct result of our own local schemes the council can expect to receive a collective higher rates amount from local businesses.”
As well as businesses there are those living locally who are also opposed to the application.
Resident Laura Crilly said: “In my opinion the South Armagh region, particularly the rural border area, continues to play second fiddle to the city when it comes to investment and job creation. Why is our council even considering a scheme that will put established jobs in jeopardy? It is very short sighted and disrespectful to the local people.”
The group has compiled a seven-point list of its own claims and objections to be presented to committee as follows:
1: No Clear Indication of Need
There are existing filling stations already strategically located less than 12 miles from the proposed site, with easy access to the A1/N1 motorway/trunk road, that already offer a wide range of services including retail, catering and toilet facilities. These include:
- 5.7 Miles – Donnelly’s Service Station
- 6.0 Miles – Morgan Xpress
- 6.2 Miles – TEXACO Barney’s Filling Station
- 7.0 Miles – Morgan Carrickcarnon OPT
- 7.4 Miles – CAMPUS Niall Clarke Oils
- 7.5 Miles – TOPAZ Junction 20
Policy IC 15 states that ‘where a route is already adequately served by existing petrol filling stations the creation of entirely new service centres will not normally be acceptable’ and ‘a spacing of 12 miles between services is considered appropriate’.
There is existing provision servicing the A1/N1 motorway/trunk road along the strategic corridor. As this existing provision is applicable to application LA07/2017/1182/F whereby the route is already being adequately serviced by service stations and those service stations are significantly less than 12 miles from the proposed site, there is no policy based ‘clear indication of need’ for the proposal.
Any discussion in regards to application LA07/2017/1182/F and the clear requirement for an justification of need must therefore, as a minimum, take into consideration these six existing filling stations in a Service Area significantly less than 12 miles from the proposed site.
2: Ignored an Existing Designated Service Area
As part of the Newry By-Pass scheme (A1 Dualling – Beech Hill to Cloughoge), under protest from the local community a section of the A1/N1 Dublin Road between the Ellisholding Road, Cloughoge and Church Hill, Dromad was circumvented.
Consequently this section of the Dublin Road (“old Dublin Road”) became an optimum location for roadside service facilities from a strategic corridor perspective. This section of road was specifically designated as a Service Area to provide roadside service facilities to the A1/N1 motorway/trunk road by DFI Roads.
In addition to this Service Area already having established roadside service facilities on offer, access was taken from the north and south slip road network so no additional improvements were required to the proposed road layout. This road layout, and the provision of a Service Area within it, has proven to be a safe and reliable decision since then.
Any discussion in regards to application LA07/2017/1182/F and the detrimental impact construction and establishment will have on the countryside, the road network, and the local community, must therefore take into consideration, as a minimum, an already designated Service Area approximately 6 miles from the proposed site.
3: Limited Additional Service Provision
Within the established old Dublin Road Service Area there collectively continues to be a broad range of services on offer to motorists on the A1/N1 motorway/trunk road, including:
- 24/7 Fuel Offering
- Car Refuel – 16+ Islands
- HGV Pumps
- Fuel Bunker Facilities
- Fuel Card Facilities
- LPG Vehicle Supply
- Sufficient Car Parking Spaces – 100+
- HGV Parking Spaces – 20+
- Caravan Parking
- Coach Drop-off Points
- Retail Sales
- Cafes & Seating
- Picnic Areas
- Bureau De Change Facilities
- Toilets & Baby Changing
- Car & Truck Wash Facilities
- Air & Water Facilities
- Rest Facilities
- Bus Terminus
In addition to these services already on offer, there are service enhancement proposals passed (P/2013/0401/F), planning applications submitted (LA07/2019/0325/F), and applications in final draft that assure the addition of:
- Vehicle Electrical Charge Points
- Additional Overnight Truck Parking
- Play Area for Children
- Meeting Rooms
- Farm Shop & Local Produce Cafe
- Tourist Information Office.
It is therefore not envisioned that the proposed application will provide any real additional benefit to road users in the future. If anything, the unnecessary geographical spread of Service Areas will result in a dilution of the service quality on offer to the motorist.
Any discussion in regards to application LA07/2017/1182/F and the impact it will have on motorists should take into consideration as a minimum the evidences that there are already a wide range of services on offer at an existing Service Area less than 12 miles away and genuine schemes within this established Service Area to provide additional and improved services.
4: Job Losses in High Unemployment Rural Area
While also serving the local community, businesses along the existing old Dublin Road Service Area are enormously reliant on passing trade from the A1/N1 motorway/trunk road. Economically, the close proximity of the application to the existing Service Area (<12 miles) and the obvious duplication of service offerings will cannibalise the motorway custom.
It is therefore obvious that the sustainability of the filling stations in the existing Service Area will be jeopardised (already a high unemployment area), with certainty of jobs losses, local contracts for supply being terminated, salary incomes for staff in the local community being diminished, reduction in rates revenue for the Council, and the potential for business closures.
Retail jobs within the rural locale of the existing Service Area are sparse, and the majority of retail employees within the existing Service Area do not have the capacity to seek work outside of the locale, due to primary-carer status, agricultural commitments, transportation limitations, lack of formal education, etc. It is therefore essential to defend the employment needs of these vulnerable local workers in a high unemployment area when reviewing the application.
Any discussion in regards to application LA07/2017/1182/F must take into consideration as a minimum the detrimental impact it will have on employment within an high unemployment rural area, particularly upon the most vulnerable local workers.
5: Downgrade of Important Route during BREXIT
Fears continue to grow that as a result of Brexit the locale could see a return of road closures, with both the UK and EU governments strongly stating that some form of border control will be implemented. In order to effectively monitor and control trade it is expected that the number of crossing points will be reduced through road closures, affecting many non-primary routes.
The existing Service Area is strategically located alongside the A1/N1 motorway/trunk road and is presently classified as a primary route that provides a Service Area to motorway traffic, in addition to the local community. Strong opposition locally and nationally to any closure or positioning of a Customs Checkpoint along this stretch of road proactively continues – E.g. Communities Against Brexit.
However the close proximity of the application to the existing Service Area (<12 miles) and the obvious duplication of service offerings would reduce the importance of the old Dublin Road in supporting the National Road Network and result in its subsequent downgrading to a non-primary route.
As a direct result of any Service Area and duplication of service offering existing less than 12 miles from the border crossing, either the UK or EU governments will be provided with greater justification to close or restrict traffic movements on the resulting non-primary route. Such restrictions would be devastating to the local community.
Any discussion in regards to application LA07/2017/1182/F must be taken into consideration as a minimum the detrimental impact it will have on the local community by providing both the UK and EU governments the ability to downgrade the old Dublin Road route.
6: Unnecessary Countryside Development
The application site comprises agricultural land in the open countryside beyond the Newry settlement limit, is quite open in the landscape, and clearly contravenes the NI Rural Strategy.
As identified above there is no clear need for a strategic roadside service facility less that 12 miles from an existing Service Area, and therefore in this case no valid reason to justify the relaxation of planning control to unnecessarily develop and intrude upon our local countryside.
The existing old Dublin Road Service Area provides for the needs of travellers using the trunk road network without requiring a proliferation of unnecessary development in the Newry area that would result in a loss of environmental quality for the community.
With the principle of planning permission and roadside service facilities established at several locations within the old Dublin Road Service Area there is provisions within planning policy for the extension of such facilities to be considered, rather than an entirely new service centre.
This old Dublin Road Service Area is accessible to both north and south bound traffic on the strategic road network, has no traffic flow issues, and is within approximately 6 miles of the application site.
Several alternative sites within the old Dublin Road Service Area large enough to accommodate the proposal are available, have long established countryside development boundaries, and already form part of the local built landscape.
Given the existing context of roadside service facilities within the old Dublin Road Service Area, development here would have less negative impact upon the landscape than the proposed application, and yield a greater positive impact upon the local community.
These sites within an already established Service Area represent a more sustainable approach to development in the local countryside. Therefore the existing Service Area offers an alternative to the current proposals before council, and diminishes justification for the application in untouched countryside.
Any discussion in regards to application LA07/2017/1182/F must take into consideration as a minimum the detrimental and unnecessary impact it will have on the local countryside and community when less intrusive and more sustainable alternative sites exist locally.
7: Complicating A1 Signage
As mentioned above the Service Area was designated by DFI Roads, and subsequent signage was provided to identify it as such. There is established road layout signage on the A1/N1 motorway/trunk road and established signage opportunities through existing in situ signage infrastructure available to direct road users to the strategically located Roadside Service Facilities on offer within the old Dublin Road Service Area.
The Applicant has stated that the Forkhill Road site cannot benefit from A1 signage, without identifying the signage requirements their proposed site would require. Either the application site will require no road side signage, or surrounding road signage in the area will become more complicated.
Any discussion in regards to application LA07/2017/1182/F must as a minimum take into consideration the impact and confusion the requirement for further signage on that section of road will have upon road navigation by local and motorway traffic.
Request that the Council Planning Committee recognise the negative impacts this application will have on the local landscape and community, make comment on each point identified, and uphold the Planning Boards decision to REJECT application LA07/2017/1182/F.