Banbridge looks almost certain to become the latest Northern Ireland location for a new Range store with proposals now laid before council for a new £5 million development.
And the submission to planning authorities this week has pointed to a “minimum” number of new jobs in the region of 85.
The application is to be publicly advertised this week and relates to a site at the Bridgewater Retail Park.
The development is already partially complete as The Range hopes to use an already constructed retail warehouse as part of the new store. It had previously been granted planning approval as part of an earlier intended scheme.
The new applicant – CDS International Superstores Ltd – will use this base and build a new unit adjacent to it, amalgamating the two to form one major store.
The application to council says it is a “major investment totalling approximately £5m” and the aim would be that “construction will be undertaken by local firms”.
It will create new retail floorspace totalling 4,518 square metres. The Range operates 160 outlets right across the UK and the Banbridge plan is for what the applicant describes as a “larger size” store, with typical units usually requiring to be at least 3,500 square metres, and with the bigger, in Gateshead, being, 8,000 square metres.
Banbridge would be above the 4,000 square metre average which the company aims for to enable it to comfortably stock its ‘range’ of 65,000+ products.
It will include an internal cafe and an external garden centre.
In terms of employment, there’s good news on that front too.
One of the applicant’s planning statements forwarded to ABC Council says of this latest planned opening: “The store will generate around 85 employment opportunities.
“These direct jobs would be both full time and part time positions and, with the exception of store management, are available to local people.
“The Full Time Equivalent (FTE) positions are estimated to be 55, which is due to the high ratio of full-time staff.
“This level of job creation is undoubtedly significant.
“Job opportunities within the store would be across a range of skills. In addition to jobs within the store itself, other employment opportunities will be created. These include jobs created by the store fit out and merchandising of the store, together with the involvement in the future maintenance and security of the retail unit; cleaners and security guards.”
And the statement continues: “The retail sector provides employment opportunities, through the provision of part-time employment and non-standard hours of work, to people who might otherwise struggle to find work which allows them to manage their commitments outside of work. It also provides employment to many young people.
“The recent recession has adversely affected employment in retail, though in relative terms, the decline in employment in retail (at around four per cent) has not been as great as in many other sectors, such as construction and manufacturing.
“In the post-recession period, and impact of Covid-19, harsh trading conditions have persisted as have lower levels of consumer confidence.
“As a result, a number of changes are taking place in the retail sector including growth in the discount/value sector and the increasing importance of multi-channel operations. The Range provides one such service offering discount, value sector goods.”
With 85 jobs, general associates are paid around £9 an hour, while management and supervisory roles would be recruited on a salary basis, with a pay range of between £18,000 and £40,000 a year.
A store of the size planned in Banbridge would have around 20 supervisory positions for the different product departments and functions.
It has been estimated that 85 staff earning an average weekly pay of £569 over the course of a year will deliver wages of some £2,514,980.
As Armagh I reported in November, a pre-application notice was submitted to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council. which gave the public the chance to make feedback.
There were no negative comments lodged at that time as a result.
Several requests and enquiries were made, one relating to the need for electric car charging points and others asking when the store would be expected to open something which, obviously, will depend on when – and indeed if – planning approval is granted.
The planned development is expected to be similar to that at the Meadows Shopping Centre, where Iceland has also been incorporated into the main store.
This unit will have an internal food products sections. The planning statement says this will involve the installation of freezer cabinets, as well as two chiller cabinets selling a range of perishable items such as cheese, meat and dairy. There will be non-perishable tinned and packet goods, and household goods and toiletries, such as soap, toilet rolls and toothpaste.
There will also be a range of drinks.
And this is where Banbridge will differ from other Range outlets as permission is sought for the store to stock a “small selection of non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks”.
The statement points adds: “The sale of food items is not intended to provide shoppers with an ability to undertake a main food shop.
“Rather the range of products is intended to meet those customers seeking specialist frozen products together with impulse buys. The products will reflect the discount nature of The Range and be competitively priced. Therefore, it has the potential to reduce car journeys to other out-of-centre stores in the local area.”
Prior to submitting plans, the applicant looked at other locations in the town and outlying areas but came to the conclusion: “None of the sites we have examined are considered to be suitable and viable to accommodate the scale, type and format proposed at Bridgewater Park, even applying flexibility in the final design and quantum of floorspace.”
The proposals will be available to view this week through the public planning portal.