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Newry ‘not big enough for two city centres’

Newry BID and Newry Chamber of Commerce have supported planners in rejecting a proposal that would pave the way for “an alternative city centre in Newry”.

Colm Shannon CEO Newry Chamber and Eamonn Connolly, BID manager, who represent hundreds of Newry businesses believe planners were wise to recommend that Damolly Developments’ plans for a further £100m retail park be rejected.

Town Centres are under pressure universally with vacancy rates stubbornly high and national footfall figures in decline. Newry is no exception facing these challenges.

The BID and Chamber believe that the proposed new development would inevitably result in further displacement of business from the centre of Newry that would ultimately prove to be unsustainable and detrimental to the city’s entire offering.

Both bodies believe that the assumptions in the Minister’s original planning decision have not crystallised and this further proposed expansion would only lead to further damage to Newry when it is, in fact, the council’s strategic aim to regenerate the city centre.

Mr Connolly said: “This proposal would all but double out-of-town retail floor space, which would then represent well over two thirds of the retail square footage in the city centre.

“The fact that a new retail park of this magnitude is proposed right next door to the existing Damolly Retail Park and the Fiveways complex, should set alarm bells ringing. Together they would constitute a very real challenge to the city centre.

“At two thirds the size of the city centre, with associated parking for 1750 cars, it is much too close to a tipping point for comfort. Planners were wise to recommend the application be rejected.

“We trust that the planners’ recommendation will be endorsed by councillors and that the planning committee listens to the local business community and adheres to its aim of regenerating Newry City Centre rather than undermining it.”

Commenting on the proposal, Colm Shannon, CEO of the Chamber said: “Newry Chamber has opposed this out-of-town development from the start and this remains our position.

“A development of this scale would have a long-term impact on the future development of Newry City Centre. The Council itself has just announced ambitious regeneration proposals for a new conference/theatre and civic hub, together with an investment in the public realm.

“A new out-of-town retail park would undermine the plans to regenerate and revitalise the centre of our city and ultimately not be good for business in Newry.”