Next and Burton in search for shop sites

Next and Burton in search for shop sites

10 January 2018

NEXT and Burton are the latest retail giants to express an interest in opening new stores in Downpatrick.

Representatives from both have indicated to local council officials that they would be interested in opening new premises, if they can secure suitable accommodation to meet their respective investment needs.

Last year, it emerged Marks and Spencer is keen to open a new food store in Downpatrick, while discount retailer Home Bargains is looking to expand its store portfolio with new premises in the town.

Land and property agents are currently working on behalf of the major retailers with ambitious plans to redevelop the former Irish Street site to provide a new retail and commercial centre generating significant interest.

The multi-million pound town centre regeneration initiative is being backed by the Department of Communities and Newry, Mourne and Down Council as part of major effort to bring new investment to Downpatrick.

The government department hopes to acquire the police station site and the adjacent properties before the end of the financial year to pave the way for their demolition to open up a huge area at the rear, with the proposed development site including the Irish Street car park.

Department of Communities officials and senior council officials plan to draw up a development brief which will be published to encourage developers to come forward to build the new retail centre which could feature the creation of a new exit from the Irish Street car park on to St Patrick’s Avenue.

In addition, roads officials are pressing ahead with a new park-and-ride scheme for shoppers visiting Downpatrick, who will be able to park their cars at the Belfast Road and travel into town by bus.

The redevelopment of the Irish Street base kills off plans for a new road through it to link up with St Patrick’s Avenue as part of a new one-way system.

Roads officials indicated to councillors this week that the proposal would have a “minimal impact” on reducing town centre congestion.

Downpatrick councillor Gareth Sharvin has welcomed the redevelopment of the Irish Street base, though Cllr Cadogan Enright is concerned about the lack of public discussion on the regeneration proposals and the consequences for abandoning the proposed new link road.

“The purchase of the former police base and adjoining properties is another step in the regeneration of Irish Street and I am very supportive of the proposal,” said Cllr Sharvin.

“The acquisition of this site will enable the council to work with local businesses and stakeholders to look at the opportunity the site provides for the town’s development and continued growth.”

He added: “The development of the site also provides an opportunity to address issues at the entrance to the Irish Street car park and increase the number of spaces. The creation of large retail units to facilitate brands such as Marks and Spencer and other possible regeneration schemes at this part of the town is particularly welcome.”

Councillor Enright, who expressed concern that debate on the Irish Street redevelopment is taking place behind-closed-doors, maintains the proposed one-way system should be built into the redevelopment proposal.

He said the land was to be purchased to help revitalise trade at this part of the town and create a one-way traffic system around the Irish Street car park. 

Councillor Enright said while Downpatrick SDLP councillors have agreed the council can buy a strip of land in the car park to facilitate the regeneration proposal, they did not tell management to deliver the one-way system.

He declared: “It is the job of Downpatrick councillors to work for the town. The promise of creating a one-way system that would make it easy to park in the town centre is now off the agenda.

“Incredibly, councillors are buying into Transport NI’s suggestion that we could route one-way traffic up Irish Street to Collins’ Corner and along St Patrick’s Avenue and back up Market Street again.

Cllr Enright added: “The last time that was tried during work on an NI Water sewerage upgrade, six shops closed in the town centre as a result. Traffic congestion must be resolved for the town to prosper. The design of the land around the former police base is critical for the future of the town.”