Urgent clarification from Tesco and Turkington Holdings on the future plans of the now vacant Alexander Road site is expected at a council meeting tomorrow morning.
The meeting, requested by councillor Thomas O’Hanlon, will be attended by all the parties on the council, senior officers and representatives of both Tesco and Turkington Holdings.
Armagh I, last Thursday, revealed the letter from Tesco to Chief Executive John Briggs – a letter containing the news which has stirred a lot of debate on our site over the last five days.
Councillor O’Hanlon says tomorrow’s meeting “must be productive and I want to get a very clear sense of direction”.
“Last week’s announcement by Tesco is a major blow for Armagh,” he said.
“Whilst I don’t believe anything we will say to the company will make them reconsider their plans for Armagh in the short term, it is imperative that every effort must now be made to secure a future for the site which is currently being developed at Railway Street/Alexander Road in the city.
“Obviously the decision by Tesco not to proceed with their planned Armagh store is a big shock to many in the community, not just to those who had hoped to gain employment in the store but also to those who travel out of Armagh to shop in Tesco’s other stores in places such as Newry, Portadown or Dungannon.
“Whilst the site was to be operated by Tesco, the site is owned by and is currently being constructed by Turkington Holdings of Portadown.
“It is common practice for companies such as Turkingtons to secure a site, build the store to Tesco’s specifications and then lease it to the retailer for a period of twenty plus years. This only complicates the whole issue in Armagh and raises a lot of questions which need answered.
“The meeting must be productive and I want to get a very clear sense of direction. The site cannot be left unfinished, nor can it be left completed and boarded up. There has to be a future found for the site and it must be done so pretty quickly.
“There has been much debate locally particularly on social media in recent days on proposed options for the future of the site, and they range from a single retailer taking over the site, to it being converted to accommodate a number of retailers.
“Whilst Tesco aren’t coming, they have an obligation along with Turkington’s to work and ensure that a future is secured for the site. I want to ensure that the Council work with them and others to ensure that the jobs which were promised with the opening of Tesco are realised for Armagh.”
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