A huge 180,000 square foot development on the edge of Newry City will see the “industrialisation” of the Ring of Gullion, residents have claimed.
Plans for the multi-million pound warehouse distribution centre, by Newry-based Savage and Whitten (S&W) Wholesale, have been lodged with Newry, Mourne and Down Council.
To put the size of the development into perspective, the large Amazon base in Portadown – which created around 20 permanent jobs and 100 driver ‘opportunities’ – boasts floorspace of around 75,000 sq ft.
It would be situated on “lands east of Chancellors Road and to the north and west of No. 20 Carnagat Lane, Newry” – a greenfield site on 11 acres near Bleary Bungalows, along the Chancellors Road, within the townland of Corrinshego in the Ring of Gullion area of outstanding natural beauty.
While the local Chancellors Road Residents Group admit it’s “a great investment in Newry” they argue “it’s just proposed for the wrong area”.
The group said: “Savage and Whitten are quite rightly excited about building their new state of the art site having recently communicated these proposed plans in local media. This, however, has left local residents, community groups and local political representatives shocked that a development of this tremendous size is being proposed for this semi- rural, agricultural and residential area.
“At over 18 metres tall, the warehouse would become the tallest building in Newry and surrounding area by a huge margin, taller than Daisy Hill hospital tower, seen in all directions with little screening possible for such a tall and large industrial site.”
The residents and community groups have come out in force in opposition with Newry, Mourne and Down council, to date receiving over 300 individual letters of objection.
Objections have also been received from Thomas Davies GAC and Camlough Historical group, as well as elected political representatives from across the community.
Objectors argue the scale of the development is “totally out of proportion and not in keeping with the area” and the adverse impact it will have on residents with concerns raised over noise, air and light pollution.
They also point to the area being rich in natural and built heritages, with several sightings and records of protected species “such as smooth newts, badgers, red squirrels, buzzards and bats”.
The group say three sites of historical archaeological importance have been recorded in the immediate surrounding area, including the Standing Stone of Corrinshego which dates back to the Bronze Age.
Objections also cover the inadequate road infrastructure in the area to cope with the demand. The group have also asked S&W to reconsider the proposed location, suggesting alternatives in already established industrial areas of Newry such as Carnbane and Greenbank industrial estates “which already have the infrastructure in place to accommodate such a huge industrial development”.
An additional outline planning application has been made for another major industrial development on a green field site next door to the proposed S&W development.
Residents, community groups and local political representatives from across the community have again strongly objected to the proposed development for the same reasons.
A representative from the Residents group added: “If these applications are approved it would mean the industrialisation of the Ring of Gullion.
“It is beyond understanding why such major industrial development would be proposed in a residential and agricultural area, rich in natural and built heritage, with poor road infrastructure and no public transport to support.”
In a response to the Chancellor’s Road Residents’ Group’, Michael Skelton, CEO, S&W said: “We welcome the opportunity to speak to local residents about their concerns. We have written several times to the Chancellors Road Residents Group asking to meet and we hope that this will happen in the near future.
“We totally understand long time residents’ concerns, as this is a departure for an area which traditionally has been residential and small business based. The issue is that the land in question is zoned for industrial purposes and has been since the most recent Banbridge, Newry and Mourne Area Plan in 2015. There is an expectation from local government that this land will be developed for the type of purpose S&W is proposing.
“We understand that residents do not want this area developed but this is contrary to the planning designation.
“Residents have suggested other sites, which S&W can assure them they had taken into consideration; with the Chancellor’s Road site deemed the most suitable for the requirement.”
Mr Skelton continued: “We want to work with local residents, and we want to be a good neighbour should we be successful with the planning application. We are completely open to sitting down and discussing concerns to see if anything can be done to allay them.
“S&W is a local wholesale company established over 100 years ago in Newry. It currently employs more than 300 people and puts circa £10m GVA back into the local economy annually. It wants to stay here and its currently facilities leave no room for expansion. It recently changed to an employee ownership trust model which means the company no longer has shareholders. All employees are direct beneficiaries when the company is profitable, with profit share paid to employees twice annually.
“This proposed development which we are excited about, allows us to plan for the future and to retain our current undertaking to the 300 people we employ and our customers/ suppliers across the island of Ireland; as well as providing further employment opportunities in the future.
“We are not a faceless corporation. We are a locally company that cares about its people and about its community.
“We can assure local residents on the Chancellor’s Road that if we are successful, we pledge to be a good neighbour. We hope that in the near future residents will meet with us to discuss their concerns so we can work together going forward.”
The application is currently under consideration by the Newry Mourne and Down District Council planning department.