02/03/2011

Asda's 'Straw Poll' Welcomes Store

One of the world's largest supermarkets is hoping that it won't be facing a fight to win planning permission for a new Co Down store.

Asda has carried out a poll during a recent two-day open exhibition of its Newry Road plans for Banbridge.

Overall 250 people attended the exhibition where they were able to talk to Asda representatives and view the retailer's plans for the store that, subject to planning permission, will have a sales area of 25,000sq ft, a petrol station and over 300 car parking spaces.

Asda said the development is expected to provide up to 200 new full and part-time jobs in a location that will attract shoppers into the area.

Just a few years ago, local business organisations joined forces to launch a 'Save Banbridge Town Centre' campaign in opposition to a plan for a major Tesco as they said it could decimate business in the town centre.

Now, Tesco's biggest competitor, Asda has said its 'straw poll' said that nine out of 10 people would support the construction of an Asda store on the Newry Road site.

As part of the supermarket's community engagement programme, Asda asked local residents who attended the exhibition a number of questions in order to assess their feelings on the proposals.

Of those surveyed 40% currently travel outside of the town to carry out their main food shop and 99% believe a new Asda store would encourage them to shop locally more regularly.

All thought that Banbridge would benefit from increased shopping choice and all of those questioned believed the area would benefit from the creation of new local jobs with 99% supporting Asda's proposal for a store on Newry Road.

Philip Bartram, Asda Property Communications Manager, said: "The results of this consultation could not have been clearer - there is strong local demand for Asda to come to Banbridge."

Mr Bartram said that the survey revealed some interesting findings concerning current supermarket choice in the town.

"Nearly half of those surveyed said that they currently travelled outside of Banbridge to carry out their main food shop and nine out of 10 respondents said that our store would encourage people to shop locally and more often which is good news for the town. It is also significant that all respondents questioned agreed that Banbridge would benefit from increased shopping choice," he said.

Mr Bartram also reiterated his view that it was important that any new supermarkets in the area were of an appropriate size and would increase choice and help to improve the overall range of shops in Banbridge.

"We firmly believe that the applications before the Planning Service should be considered in conjunction as it's important that the correct choice is made for Banbridge." Mr Bartram continued.

"Asda's Newry Road scheme is deliverable and if granted permission we will begin construction immediately.

"Shoppers will benefit greatly from increased competition, a better range and variety of products, cheaper prices and improved employment opportunities. It's clear that many local residents want to see an Asda store in Banbridge," he said.

However, in 2009, the Ulster Chemists' Association, the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association and the Federation of Small Businesses all joined a campaign launched in response to Tesco developer's plans to appeal the initial planning refusal for a huge hypermarket in 2008.

Asda will be hoping their more modest development for Banbridge won't attract such opposition.

See: Antrim Asda Gets Green Light

See: Tesco's Banbridge Plans Get Axed

(BMcC/GK)

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