06/05/2016

Traders Lobby For Lidl Store Expansion

The Connswater Traders' Association has urged politicians and planning officials to support a proposed store expansion by supermarket Lidl at the site.

A decision is due to be made on the planning application later this month.

Lidl has applied for permission to move into a 23,000 square foot site close to the shopping centre, but it is believed that planners will recommend refusal to Belfast City Council Planning Committee.

In a statement Association Chair Jolene Gibson said: "The traders have been affected by the closure of Tesco's and Dunnes and this proposed expansion by Lidl was seen as a ray of light, bringing much-needed jobs and investment. We can see no justification for this application being refused."

Tesco pulled out of Connswater in April 2015, while Dunnes Stores left the complex in February that same year. This left Connswater without a food retail outlet until April 2015 when Lidl submitted an application to move to a site close to the centre. If approved, it would more than double its retail space.
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It is understood planners want Lidl to move into the unoccupied Tesco site but this is not available.

There have also been no objections from residents, consultees or any other interested parties to the application.

Gerry Monaghan, Connswater General Manager, said: "We desperately need a major food retailer and Lidl fills this fundamental gap. A new expanded store would lead to around 40 new jobs, increased footfall and the very real possibility of other businesses locating in the shopping centre and retail park.

"At a time when East Belfast has been hit by the loss of 1,100 jobs at Bombardier and a further job losses due to the closure of Tesco's and Dunnes, there is no logic to refusing this application."

East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson has appealed to Belfast City Council planning officials to view Connswater as a special case.

He said: "It is imperative that planning officers reconsider their expected recommendation to refuse this vital application. Connswater faces unique pressures after the withdrawal of its two largest tenants and Lidl's investment will transform the fortunes of East Belfast's premier shopping centre."

(JP/LM)

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