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New £3.5 million supermarket and filling station earmarked for main Gosford Road

A new £3.5 million supermarket and petrol filling station could be built on the main Gosford Road, midway between Markethill and Newry, bringing a welcome jobs boost to the area.

Proposals have been drawn up for a site at Loughgilly and submitted to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council.

The proposed site is currently home to a roadside service station, including diner, Costcutter shop and fuel pumps.

But the plan, if approved, is to demolish all of that and build a full supermarket, complete with in-store deli and petrol filling station.

It has been described as a “major application” and would represent an investment of £3.5 million.

In all, 12 new staff would be employed – increasing the current 18 to 30 – in a mix of full and part-time positions.

It is also expected that around 55 “local” jobs would be created during the construction stages, with the new-build hopefully completed between nine and 12 months after work starts.

The plans have been drawn up by Coalisland-based Clarman Architects, the same team behind the proposed EuroSpar supermarket and petrol filling station at Orangefield in Armagh.

As it stands, the current collective facilities for the shop and dinner offer floorspace of 2,850 sq ft – equating to just five per cent of the overall site.

The new building – on the main A28 Gosford Road, five miles from Newry and four from Markethill – would be over 6,400 sq ft, with the majority for retail sales.

There is also a full seated hot food and deli counter for customers, providing takeaway or dine on site facilities.

A supporting statement indicates that the existing retail element would continue to trade until the new store is built.

It explains: “The current shop is a long established, popular and busy retail and hot food location on the A28. As a consequence of its demand and success the applicant has now sought to upgrade the services and offer on the site, to bring it in line with modern car driver expectations.”

The statement continues: “The proposal seeks to develop a new shop adjacent to the existing building and then demolish the old shop and deli and replace this with the enlarged forecourt.

“The design has a number of efficiencies incorporated. It allows works to the development to commence whilst the current services continue to trade.”

It adds: “The shop will sell the standard petrol filling station offer with sweets and confectionary, newspapers and magazines and cigarette and tobacco. It will provide solid fuel for home heating and will also provide for snacks, lunches and top-up shopping for customers to pick up occasional items as part of their visit.”

It adds: “The aisles will be wider than in the existing shop and all new shelving and refrigeration equipment will be provided.

“The proposal will provide a large food to go area and chilled drinks, where meal deals and already cooked food will be available for selection. A dairy product chiller will provide for top-up milk and butter and cut meats.

“Four aisles of shelving will provide for ambient food comprising basic level tinned food, bread products, snacks, crisps and confectionary. There will also be areas of newspapers, magazines and basic stationery.”

There would be two staffed check-outs and one self-service.

Described still as a “relatively modest sized retail shop”, it will be “complemented by the in store offers of the Post Office and National Lottery”.

In terms of additional facilities, it states: “The new building will provide customer male, female and disabled toilets. It will provide a large rear store and back of house offices to provide for the management of the business.”

The petrol filling station would see the construction of three islands for pumps, covered by canopy. There is also a service yard; new HGV ‘bunkering’ services are provided along with a car services area.

As it stands, there is a total of 15 parking spaces. The new development would have 37 – including a large space for car with caravan in tow. There would be cycle parking to the front of the supermarket.

The existing access to the site would continue to be used.

The planning statement says the applicant could simply have enlarged the building, but was to be “commended” for “taking the important decision to give this entire site a full refresh”.

The planning statement says: “Demolition of the old shop unit in favour of a modern, full specification shop and deli unit will provide the scope of the business to make material improvements to the customer experience.

“Examples of modern services stations on transport corridors are now well known and travellers have a high expectation of the services likely to be provided. Good examples of modern service stations are the Applegreen on the outskirts of Belfast or Maxol on the A2 between Antrim and Ballymena.

“These provide customers with a variety of groceries and confectionary whilst on the go. It is important to make a distinction that these shops are not classed as main food supermarkets, that are not designed or stocked as a main supermarket.

“They are short stop shops providing small levels of top-up groceries.”

Urging planners to give the thumbs-up to the application, the statement, by Inaltus, adds: “In a rural area this level of jobs growth is a significant economic boost to the local community through increased salaries.

“Of course, local suppliers will also benefit as local produce will be stocked and sold in the shop and there will be a rates increase providing increased revenue for the local council.

“The economic benefits of the proposal are a material consideration in the assessment of the application.”

The proposals will now be advertised shortly with a recommendation and decision to be made in due course.

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