Northern Ireland

Belfast: Planners recommend rejection of Lidl expansion proposal

Lidl sign
Image caption Lidl is seeking ro build a new store at Connswater retail park

Planners have recommended that Belfast City Council should reject a proposal for a new Lidl store in east Belfast.

The food retailer wants to relocate within Connswater retail park.

The units which Lidl is pursuing only have planning permission for the sale of bulky goods like furniture.

The recommendation says changing the use would conflict with policies which favour the use of existing suitable sites.

The council's planning committee is due make its decision at a meeting next Tuesday.

Image caption Planners have recommended that Belfast City Council reject a proposal for a new Lidl store at Connswater retail park

The recommendation hinges on the issue of the "sequential test".

It means that when a new development is proposed for a location which is not in the main retail core the applicant must show that there are no other suitable, available and viable sites.

The planners report states that other suitable sites are available including the units vacated by Tesco and Dunnes within Connswater shopping centre.

Although there are issues with each of those units the planners say the difficulties are "not insurmountable".

Tesco continue to hold a long lease on the unit they have vacated and the report says they "are limiting" the nature of retailer they will let to.

The planners say this not a criterion for the sequential test as it is "a private interest issue and not a matter of public interest".

Connswater Shopping Centre General Manager Gerry Monaghan said: "We fail to understand why planning officials would recommend refusing this application in spite of there being no objections from residents, consultees or any other interested parties and despite a retail impact assessment concluding that there would be no adverse impact on any businesses in Belfast town centre or outlying areas."

The Connswater Traders' Association say they intend to make a submission to the council planning committee next week arguing that the recommendation for refusal "fails to take into account the needs of traders and the residents of the area".

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