Outlet retail park in Banbridge plans cinema and play centre move
An £8m investment that would create 200 jobs will attempt to revive the fortunes of one of Northern Ireland's biggest retail parks.
The Outlet in Banbridge was opened in 2007 at a cost of £70m, but almost a third of its shop space is vacant.
Planning approval is now being sought to switch part of its use from retail to leisure.
The proposals would create an eight-screen cinema, a large children's indoor play centre and two restaurants.
The property consultants behind the plans, the Lotus Group, said it would "inject new energy" into the Outlet, create work and secure the park's 500 existing jobs.
It said it would also reduce the park's vacancy rate to 10%.'Emergency surgery'
Ulster Bank has owned the park since the original developers got into difficulties.
The Outlet was built to capitalise on cross-border trade, but never attracted the numbers of shoppers envisaged. Recently it was valued at £16m.
The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association described the proposals as "emergency surgery".
Chief executive Glyn Roberts said: "We are concerned that these new plans will be to the detriment of existing jobs and small businesses in Banbridge town centre.
"It will draw trade and footfall away."
If planning approval is granted, the cinema and other new businesses could be opened by early next year.
The park is also in line for a new 60,000 sq ft Tesco Extra store.