05/04/2011

Tesco's Sandyknowes Centre 'Imminent'

The long awaited construction of a new Tesco superstore in Glengormley's neglected Northcott Shopping Centre has begun.

Although Tesco has yet to provide details, workmen are now on site beside the dilapidated supermarket shopping centre - with the wrecker's ball to level the premises after Easter.

Many retailing jobs will result as well as around 250 positions for construction workers during the badly delayed building programme to build the new Sandyknowes Shopping Centre that will replace Northcott.

The development is long behind schedule as plans were approved in December 2009 with the new £35m complex originally due to have been finished last Christmas.

Tesco staff have now been told they are to be re-located after Easter as the demolition of the aged centre is to commence.

They are to be distributed around other Tesco stores, such as Carnmoney Road, or Church Road - the Tesco HQ in NI.

The proposed complete redevelopment of Northcott Shopping Centre in Newtownabbey - by Blanca Developments - was originally given the go-ahead through the fast-stream Planning Service's Pre-Application Discussion (PADs) system by the former NI Environment Minister, Edwin Poots.

In December 2009 he said: "The proposal represents a high quality modern development for the area, replacing the current centre which, although of its time, is now somewhat run down and in need of redress."

Blanca Developments who will build the centre, welcomed the speed of the approval and said the local community's views had been taken on board from the outset.

The firm is a low-profile company currently listed as based in Cloughmills, Co Antrim whose directors and shareholders have interests in a number of other retail developments across NI including the Buttercrane in Newry and Foyleside in Londonderry.

Tesco, currently the anchor tenant in Northcott, will increase roughly double in size, creating up to 200 new high quality, full and part-time jobs for the area.

These workers will join the 170 employees currently working in the store, bringing the number of people employed by Tesco across Newtownabbey Borough Council area to more than 750 with 250 building jobs during the construction phase.

Stephen Cochrane, Stores Director for Tesco in Northern Ireland, said: "We are delighted that planning permission for this development has been granted."

The proposal involves the demolition of the existing centre with the erection of a new shopping centre with surface car parking to accommodate 840 cars. It will include a Tesco Store alongside 12 open class retail units, a Tesco café and a petrol filling station.

Local petrol retailers have been worried about the impact of cut-price fuel being sold on the site, but Spar and Vivo wholesaler, John Henderson hasn't let this deter their development.

"Tesco is expanding aggressively," said Paddy Doody, Sales and Marketing Director at Henderson Wholesale, but Tesco's second Newtownabbey forecourt was no surprise.

He said that competition is "healthy" and that the fight was joined with major work at the 'company-owned' Spar forecourt at Glenwell Road.

He said that the newly redeveloped Spar Glenwell store, located on the Antrim Road opened its doors at Christmas.

The new 41,411 sq ft complex includes a store and forecourt, and has been redeveloped under Henderson Retail's multi-million pound investment in its estate.

A new on-site Post Office has since opened in the development.

The Chair of Newtownabbey Borough Council's Planning Committee, Alderman Nigel Hamilton, had a cautious welcomed for the rebuilding of the decrepit Northcott - but is also aware of the likely impact.

He warned that the 'new' Tesco jobs are welcome, but a further filling station will bring additional pressure to the vulnerable forecourts.

See: Tesco's Northcott Plan Approved

See: Planners Provoke Forecourt War

(BMcC/GK)

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