Green light for Strabane complex

Published Wednesday, 23 July 2014
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Outline planning permission has been passed for a mixed use complex in Strabane, Co Tyrone.

The £50m Three Rivers development, which could create 1'000 jobs in the area, is planned for a green-field site at the riverside dividing Strabane from Lifford in Co Donegal.

It includes an employment park, a learning campus and a sports and wellbeing centre.

There will also be a 90 bed hotel, a retail foodstore, a garden centre, and a petrol filling station.

A children's play area, a river wildlife centre and environmental and access infrastructure are also part of the plans.

The scale of the development meant that the decision to approve or reject planning permission lay with the Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan.

He said that the development has the potential to provide significant employment opportunities for the local area, transforming this cross border location.

"I have considered this application carefully as I am aware of the fundamental planning and policy issues concerning this development. However, I also recognise the potential benefits of the project.

"I am aware that Strabane is one of the most deprived areas of Northern Ireland with 44% of the population of Strabane District Council area living in deprived areas," the SDLP minister said.

"I have visited Strabane and listened to and considered the views of a broad spectrum of interested parties. I acknowledge that overall there is strong local support for the project and the need for new investment, job creation and the potential for this development to act as a catalyst for further inward investment.

"I am also aware of the concerns of some local town centre traders. However, I believe that any potential negative impact associated within this development will be offset in the long term by growth in the local economy, the creation of jobs and greater wealth, inward investment and visitor spend.

"I believe this is a unique opportunity for Strabane, there is no other comparable proposal and an investment opportunity of this kind is unlikely to come forward in the foreseeable future.

"The Riverine Project will strengthen cross border linkages and build on the relationship which exists between two border towns. I see this project as an opportunity to develop a regionally significant visitor destination at this gateway location and to redefine the relationship between Lifford and Strabane."

However, the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) has reacted angrily to the minister's decision to grant approval.

Strabane Town Centre Retailer Declan Hughes said: "This decision is utterly disgraceful and shows yet again that this Minister is ignoring his own party policy and departmental policy of Town Centre First for these types of retail development.

"Local traders have pointed out that the vacant Smiths Mill site in Strabane Town Centre was a better option. Again this was ignored by the Minister.

"This decision will destroy and displace existing retail jobs from Strabane Town Centre, which has a vacancy rate of 30%. It will take £50 million out of the economy of Strabane town centre and seriously damage the town's footfall."

NIIRTA Chief Executive Glyn Roberts added: "Northern Ireland has the highest shop vacancy rate in the UK and if he continues to grant permission to out of town retail hypermarkets this figure will continue to grow.

"Does Mark Durkan really want that as his ministerial legacy?"

© UTV News
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4 Comments
Andrew in Strabane wrote (56 days ago):
Strabane has a geographical advantage, it lies on the border and has a daily influx of shoppers from Donegal and surrounding counties. There has always been a recession in strabane, it's about time we got a break. West of the Bann is socio-economically deprived. I honestly believe that "if we build it, they will come" approach will work, as it has done previously with Asda. Combined with the new attraction proposed for Sion Mills the future looks up for the people of strabane at last.
Strabane in Strabane wrote (57 days ago):
The town centre is only a 5 min walk at most from this building area. The retailers could make it more affordable to shop in the town centre
Louie UK in Kent England wrote (57 days ago):
Concerned citizen in Bangor, you make some great points, one of the major problems is the Greedy high levels of let or rent for the small biz to sustain, these greedy owners and letting agents make it impossible for small town centre companies to trade and stay, we do need new thinking but with the same super greedy owners then its going to kill small towns in the end??
Concerned citizen in Bangor wrote (58 days ago):
No more out of town developments-everywhere you look theyre half empty eyesores -lets preserve the town centre anywhichwaywecan Imagination is whats needed -aesthetics are needed -affordable sustainable small premises are whats needed -not grandiose schemes which involve the car and ultimately the whim of some multiple Preserve the good architecture and ensure any new build is blended in This ganeplan is short term and a proven failure here and in the rest of the uk Concerned citizen
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