Plans for a new £2.2 million supermarket and filling station in south Armagh are to be recommended for approval again.
And just yesterday (Friday), an independent retailers organisation said it would “generally be supportive” of the application as the Newtownhamilton scheme aims to cross the final hurdle.
The controversial development – which is expected to create 16 new jobs – has been earmarked for the former livestock mart in Newtown.
The site at the Commons has been vacant since 2013, but in December 2015, the Henderson Group set its sights on expanding its retail portfolio to include the south Armagh town.
In April past, planning officials recommended that Newry, Mourne and Down District Council allow the development to go ahead.
But this scheme – which attracted 13 letters of objection including a petition containing 80 signatures – was not given the authorisation by council at that time.
Now officials will again come back to planning committee – due to sit in the middle of this month – and recommend council finally gives the nod.
Among the concerns raised previously and quoted by some objectors is SPPS policy, which states that “proposals for shops in villages and small settlements ought to be of a scale, nature and design appropriate to the character of the settlement”.
They had also cited a need for a full retail impact assessment.
There has been a mixed response within the town.
But Retail NI – the trade body representing the interests of independent retailers – has written a letter which would back the applicant.
Some of those objecting to the development are members of Retail NI
But, in a letter to NMD Council yesterday (Friday), its chief executive said the group’s policy would support the work by the Henderson Group, which is also a member of Retail NI.
Glyn Roberts states: “Retail is the largest sector of our private sector economy and is a key partner for growth in a new 21st Century private sector-led Northern Ireland.
“Retail NI is currently driving the debate on the future of our towns centres and digital high streets.
“Whilst retail NI clearly would be neutral towards proposals from one of our members that is opposed by another, our policy supports investment in town centres and as such would generally be supportive of such a significant investment by an independent retailer in Newtownhamilton.”
The new development, if it finally gets to go ahead, would stretch to almost 7,000 sq feet of retail space. It would also incorporate an in-store butchery and deli, as well as newsagents and fresh flowers, home-made ice cream and coffee area.
The filling station would have petrol pumps located on four individual islands, capable of servicing eight cars at a time.
There would also be an ATM included at the premises, which would have more than the required level of parking, with a total of 71 spaces available on site.
The planning meeting will take place on Wednesday, September 13, when a final decision should be taken.