It has emerged that a decision to approve a new multi-million pound Tesco store in Armagh has been deferred after a city-based councillor objected, Armagh I can exclusively reveal.
Officials from DoE Planning Service were present last Monday night at a meeting of Armagh City and District Council when they gave an opinion to approve the development, which would create 250 jobs.
But Armagh Ulster Unionist Councillor Sylvia McRoberts asked that the application be deferred.
In December Armagh I reported that the Tesco superstore for Armagh was to receive full planning approval early in the New Year.
The development has been earmarked for the former Fane Valley site at Alexander Road.
Several planning applications had been submitted over recent years for the multi-million pound outlet and, on Monday, January 6, DoE Planning Service recommended approval, as we reported in advance of the meeting.
Today (Monday), SDLP Councillor Thomas O’Hanlon said that, whist he doesn’t agree with the request by Councillor Sylvia McRoberts to defer the planning approval for Tesco, he warned that councillors must respect the Council’s own Planning Deferral Policy.
Councillor O’Hanlon told Armagh I: “At last Monday night’s council meeting Planning Service presented the proposal by J H Turkington for a Tesco store at Railway Street/Alexander Road and Councillor McRoberts asked that the application be deferred for one month to allow a meeting to take place with objectors to the proposal.
“Whilst I may not agree with Councillor McRoberts’ decision, I fundamentally believe we must adhere to published council policy which allows for a one time deferral and will more than likely see the application back next month as an approval.
“The policy was drawn up last year to allow councillors to have the voice of objectors heard and all political parties and Planning Service were part of the policy group which brought forward the policy.
“It only applies where there are contentious approvals on the monthly Planning Schedule and it would be completely wrong for councillors to deviate from the policy if and when it suits us.
“In fact I asked for legal advice from the council’s solicitor on a previous occasion when some members tried to ignore our own policy.
“The proposal to open a Tesco store in Armagh has generated much discussion and debate. Many householders are telling me and other elected representatives the sooner the store is opened in Armagh the better, whilst traders fear for the City Centre.
“I believe Planning Service have assessed all the issues concerned, Roads Service have been consulted on numerous occasions and have given their approval to the proposed roads layout as well. An independent Retail Impact Assessment has been completed.
“I appreciate the concerns of local traders and the council have been working hard to improve the city centre through capital investment, events organised and indeed through various support programmes and I am keen to see this continue.
“However, if you go to Tesco in Dungannon, Portadown, Craigavon , Newry or further afield you see many people from Armagh City and District in those stores, or even go up any small lane across the council area and you see the Tesco van delivering groceries to homes.
“I would hope that the opening of a Tesco store in Armagh would stop people going to these other towns and would encourage them to stay in Armagh for the rest of their shopping and I would hope that Tesco will work with our existing retailers from all sectors to enhance the offering in Armagh.
“Councillor McRoberts made a legitimate request to have the application held for a month in order to have a meeting with Planning Service.
“I understand that meeting is to take place next Monday and Planning Service hope to be in the position to reconsider any further issues before the Planning Meeting of council on Monday, February 3.”