Group pulls out of trying to slay the Tesco dragon
BELFAST BRIEFING:IT WAS billed as a David and Goliath battle between a mighty British supermarket multiple and a Northern Ireland group fighting on behalf of small, independent traders.
At stake, according to the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, was the future of Banbridge town centre, which it claimed would be devastated if a proposed new out- of-town, biggest-on-the-island Tesco hypermarket got the go-ahead.
For the last five years, the retail trade association has thrown everything in its arsenal and spent an estimated £70,000-plus campaigning against the proposed store to be built at Bridgewater retail park on the outskirts of Banbridge.
The park is better known to shoppers North and South as the Outlet village on the main A1 road between Belfast and Dublin.
The association has always maintained that the proposed Tesco “hypermarket” would remove £18 million from Banbridge town centre, resulting in small independent traders closing and the net loss of hundreds of jobs”.
Tesco, which has a town centre store in Banbridge, has consistently argued that the hypermarket would create hundreds of jobs and deliver an investment boost to the area.
Both Tesco and the association have in the last five years campaigned vigorously from Banbridge to Stormont on their respective point of views, resulting in an emotionally charged fight over the proposed hypermarket which effectively managed to divide the town.
Some people including local politicians backed it while traders and business people – such as Joe Quail whose family have been “purveyors of fine foods for over 100 years” in Banbridge, enthusiastically opposed it.
More than 3,000 local people signed a petition objecting to the proposed out-of-town store.
The trade association and Banbridge Chamber of Commerce were the most vocal and energetic on the opposing side launching a highly-energetic “Save Banbridge Town Centre” campaign.
Thanks to the no campaign, Tesco was forced to lodge three planning applications for the proposed store and had to whittle down the size from its originally intended 130,000 sq ft store.
When it finally got the green light for the store last March, the association decided to launch a judicial review against the decision.
Now though, the formerly fearless association has suddenly decided out of the blue to embark on a U-turn of almost biblical proportions. It intends “not to continue” with its legal challenge against the store and has withdrawn its judicial review.
Has the landscape changed?
Not if appearances were anything to go by at Quails butchery and deli in the town yesterday as a respectable queue gathered at lunchtime.