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Jobs boost as new 24-hour gym planned at former Debenhams store in Craigavon

It will be housed on the first floor above Primark and will 'represent a total investment of £4.6m into the area' while creating 'jobs for approximately 32 members of staff'

Former Debenhams store at rushmere Shopping Centre
The gym will use a large portion of the first floor vacated by Debenhams

A huge new state-of-the-art gym – which would create over 30 jobs – is being planned for the first floor of the former Debenhams store at Rushmere, Armagh I can exclusively reveal.

Primark is using the entirety of the ground floor of the anchor unit at the Craigavon shopping centre.

But now the vast first floor of the property looks set to be sub-divided and converted and brought back into productive use, with a very large part of it earmarked for the new gym.

Proposals have been drawn up by Killahoey Ltd for a gymnasium which would open 24 hours a day and feature multiple elements.

A change of use application has been lodged with Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council for consideration.

If approved, the new gym would stretch to over 16,000 sq ft.

A supporting planning statement indicates the new facility would represent a major investment at the County Armagh retail centre.

And it would bring a significant jobs boost too.

The statement, compiled by MBA Planning, confirms: “The proposal will represent a total investment of £4,600,000 into the area and will create jobs for approximately 32 members of staff.”

The gym will include a large open plan area for exercise equipment and weights, as well as a studio area for smaller groups and classes.

There will also be a spin area, provision for seating and male and female lockers and showers.

There would be an entrance lobby too, while the proposals also point to ancillary accommodation which would include a staff room, offices, server room and storage.

There will be some external work involved, with a new glazed wall installed on the southeast elevation of Rushmere.

The gym itself would be accessed “directly from the undercroft car park through the existing lift shafts and staircase”.

In terms of parking, staff and customers’ needs would be met within the 1,800 existing spaces provided at Rushmere.

The gym, the supporting statement advises, is located within the “prime retail core” of Craigavon and “seeks to meet the need for a modern private gymnasium” within the area.

Given that the intention is for it to be open 24 hours a day, it should “help to supplement the evening economy of the area”.

The statement points out that a gym would “diversify the range of uses” in Craigavon, and adds: “It will bring into beneficial use an otherwise long-term vacant building and so will enhance the appearance and character of the shopping centre and have a positive impact on the vitality and viability of the primary retail core of the town centre.”

It was in May 2021 that Debenhams closed. The unit – 1A at Rushmere – was vacant until December 2022 when Primark took over the ground floor to much public acclaim.

Primark had no requirement for the first floor, so the unit was reconfigured and the internal connection between the ground and first floor closed off.

It has been vacant since awaiting a new use, which has now emerged in the form of this gymnasium.

It would take over a considerable section of the first floor.

The remainder, meanwhile, would be used “for retail purposes, consistent with the original Debenhams consent”, but no details of any future tenant is available at this stage.

The application for change of use will now be advertised shortly with a decision expected in due course.

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