Asda 'Remains committed to Downpatrick'

Asda 'Remains committed to Downpatrick'

15 November 2023

ASDA has reaffirmed its commitment to Downpatrick two weeks after it was forced to close its flagship store due to major structural issues.

The store was shut after an engineering report revealed the Ballydugan Road outlet sustained considerable damage as a result of the flood water which engulfed the town after the Quoile river burst its banks.

Widely regarded as one of Asda’s most profitable stores, uncertainty now surrounds the future of the building. 

Asda confirmed yesterday that while the Downpatrick store will unfortunately remain closed for the “foreseeable future” it is committed to the town.

It says that in order to continue serving loyal customers, it will operate a click and collect service from its Portadown store and increasing the number of home delivery slots available in the local area. 

The retail giant is also running a bus service twice daily to its Portadown store starting from tomorrow.

“We are committed to Downpatrick and are aiming to open a temporary store in the next few weeks while we continue to explore all options for a permanent store,” Asda said in a statement.

“We will provide a further update on these plans once we have more information to share.”

Staff at the Downpatrick store met with senior Asda executives at a primary school in Downpatrick on Tuesday of last week when they were briefed about the company’s plans in the wake of the store closure.

They have now been redeployed to other stores including Newtownards and Dundonald.

While the Harry Corry, Peacocks and Poundstretcher stores at the Ballydugan Road retail park were also closed on the advice of structural engineers, Poundstretcher confirmed late yesterday afternoon that it will reopen tomorrow.

News of Asda’s commitment to Downpatrick came just hours after of one of the main arterial routes into the town was closed.

Cracks which appeared at the Quoile bridge on Monday morning resulted in its immediate closure, with speculation mounting that it could remain closed for some considerable time.

Specialist engineers are inspecting the 100 year-old bridge where one of the structure’s masonry parapets has been damaged.

While one initial theory was that pressure caused by a build-up of debris and toxic sludge in some of the bridge’s tunnels forced water through others at a high pressure resulted in structural damage, it is now believed a lorry may have been responsible for the damage.

The closure of the bridge comes almost two weeks after the Quoile burst its banks and flooded the town centre, leaving many businesses under several feet of water and a repair bill in excess of £9m.

The closure of the Old Belfast Road is the latest setback for traders who displayed remarkable resilience in the wake of the devastating flood, with a number already reopened and others relocating to temporary premises.

Mr Paul McCartan, who saw two of his family’s businesses in Market Street swamped by flood water, said the bridge closure compounded the “hopelessness” many traders are experiencing.

He said the closure will potentially deter people in Killyleagh and Shrigley from shopping in Downpatrick.

As the bridge remains closed, questions are being asked about the maintenance of the river, with politicians calling for an urgent meeting with the Department for Infrastructure’s Permanent Secretary and for the outcome of the structural report into the safety of the bridge to be made public.

The Department for Infrastructure says it was made aware of the defect on Monday morning and that engineers are assessing the situation. 

The bridge closure has lead to major traffic disruption.

On Monday evening, contractors were removing grass blocking the flow of water under the bridge archways.

South Down MP Chris Hazzard said the bridge closure is yet another warning that urgent action is required to improve the free flow of rising water in the Quoile. 

He has also visited the Belfast Road bridge where several of the tunnels appear to be blocked with debris and overgrown vegetation.

“Such blockages are playing a key role in restricting water flow, increasing pressure on structures such as the Quoile bridge and ultimately contributing to increased flooding,” he said. 

“The closure of the bridge is yet another warning that urgent action is required to improve the free flow of rising water in the Quoile.”