Marks & Spencer is set to secure planning permission for a new 17,100 sq ft Foodhall at Riverside Retail Park in Coleraine, creating 40 jobs during the construction phase and supporting a further 70 full-time and part-time jobs when the store is opened and operational.
Planning officials at Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council have recommended that planning permission be approved subject to a number of conditions.
Councillors will hear at the planning committee on Wednesday 23rd February that no letters of objection were received in relation to the application and that no concerns have been raised by statutory consultees.
A report that will be presented to Councillors outlines that the proposal will not result in a significantly adverse impact upon Coleraine Town Centre.
Alternative sites were explored and are deemed not suitable, available or viable for the proposed development such as the former JJB unit at Hanover Place, The Diamond Shopping Centre, Bridge Street/Circular Road and the Market Yard.
Following consultation, respondents asked that the town centre store be maintained alongside the new store to facilitate shopping in the town centre.
Within the report, the agent advised that "M&S are constantly reviewing and reshaping their stores across the UK to make sure they have the right stores in the right locations to serve customers in the best possible way. The decision about the future of the town centre store is one that involves wider considerations for the company, beyond planning. Given it is an operational issue, it has not required any design amendments to the proposal as a consequence."
The planning committee report also reveals that M & S homeware and clothing is not part of the application.
Further down the report also outlines that a number of concerns raised included the knock-on effect that the M&S Store might have on traffic in the vicinity of the Riverside Retail Park – citing existing concerns about the level of traffic currently at the Retail Park at peak times. A section read "The development team is confident that a TAF Report prepared by the consulting roads engineer will address these concerns in the full planning application."
Commenting East Londonderry MLA Maurice Bradley said "Whilst this is good news for Coleraine in terms of choice for consumers, Marks and Spencer's policy of continually reviewing their stores across the UK to meet consumer demands, I hope their in-town store at the Diamond remains in situ.
"I have long held the belief that our town centre, particularly the Diamond area around the Town Hall should be for retail with banks and building societies encouraged to move to side streets.
"If Councillors approve this development they will be lauded for their foresight, but condemned for a perception they are encouraging businesses to relocate to the Riverside Centre. However, this week, it was revealed by Causeway Coast Community News, that council may be considering an increase in fees for car parks, compared to free parking available at Riverside. I would encourage businesses and councils to engage in a strategy to re-think how best to regenerate Coleraine Town Centre as a major retail offering."
"There are no easy or quick fixes, but I would suggest a meeting of minds to formulate an economic strategy for Coleraine and engagement with the Northern Ireland Executive’s High Street Task Force, announced a year ago this month.