All four planning applications are located out of town and include proposals for large foodstores. Locations for the proposed developments are the Moneymore Road, Castledawson Road, Thornhill Avenue and Ballyronan Road.
All were designated Article 31 applications meaning they are of such significance that the final decision rests with the Minister.
Mark H Durkan said: “Magherafelt has a strong and vibrant town centre, with one of the lowest levels of retail vacancy in Northern Ireland. There is already a strong retail provision with a mix of local independent traders and main food providers. This needs to be protected which is why, after careful consideration, I am refusing all four applications.”
“There is already a Tesco operating outside the town centre and I believe the town centre could not survive another main food retailer at an out of centre location without having a detrimental impact on existing businesses.”
“Protecting the town centre was not my only consideration in making these decisions. Road safety, impact on the environment and residents were all significant factors.
“Pedestrian and road safety are important considerations for all towns. There are a number of schools in close proximity to Magherafelt town centre so I am particularly conscious of it here. There are existing traffic problems within Magherafelt, particularly the Diamond and I felt each proposal would further aggravate this problem.”
“Retail planning policy is not solely focused on the impact to town centres. The use must also be appropriate to the surrounding area and I was not persuaded that this was the case with all the applications. Large foodstores and their associated high levels of car parking would not have been in keeping with the predominantly residential character of the surrounding area and would also have had a significant impact on neighbouring properties.”
The Minister concluded: “These decisions announced today are all shaping a planning system that delivers for business but not at the expense of our environment, planet or people. A system that builds a better environment and a stronger economy.”
Notes to editors:
1. Planning application H/2010/0254/F was submitted to DOE Planning and Local Government Group on 24 May 2010 by Merit Investments & Properties Ltd. The application is for full planning permission for the demolition of existing buildings and construction of a food superstore with car parking and servicing, along with associated access works, general site works and landscaping located on lands to include 58a & 60 Moneymore Road & lands to the rear of no. 7 Killyfaddy Road, Magherafelt.
2. Planning application H/2011/0103/O was submitted on 25 February 2011 by RSL Developments. The application is for outline planning permission for a proposed foodstore, car parking and petrol filling station on land between land between Thornhill Avenue and Oakvale Manor, Magherafelt
3. Planning application H/2011/0104/O was submitted on 25 February 2011 by Forbes Furniture Group. The application is for outline planning permission for the demolition of existing furniture store and erection of supermarket, associated parking and amended access on lands including Forbes Furniture Store the existing Lidl store and vacant site to its immediate east at Castledawson Road, Magherafelt.
4. Planning application H/2011/0145/F was submitted on 15 March 2011 by Corbo Ltd. The application is for full planning permission for the demolition of existing filling station shop and retail units (with dental surgery above) to provide food superstore, replacement dental surgery and replacement filling station on an extended site to the rear and side, with associated parking, servicing, access, landscaping and general site works at 40 Ballyronan Road, Magherafelt.
5. The applications were designated of major importance under Article 31 of the Planning (NI) Order 1991.
6. The average retail vacancy rate in Northern Ireland is 19% according to ‘Northern Ireland Commercial Property Report 2013’ (Lisney, November 2013). The retail vacancy in Magherafelt is stated as 12.6% one of the lowest vacancy rates in Northern Ireland.
7. The Department consulted with a number of statutory bodies including DRD Roads Service.
8. There has been a high level of opposition to the retail developments in Magherafelt. Letters of support have also been received to the Moneymore Road and Ballyronan Road applications.
9. For media enquiries please contact DOE Press Office on 028 9025 6058. Out of office hours, contact the EIS Duty Press Officer on pager 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.