‘Bitter disappointment’ at delay in Tesco case

TWO Banbridge councillors have voiced their “bitter disappointment” at the unexpected delay in the Judicial Review into Tesco’s plans for a superstore at Bridgewater Park.

The review, granted to the Northern Ireland Independent Retail and Trade Association (NIIRTA) in September, was scheduled to proceed on December 15 but was adjourned last week for three months.

It is believed the late submission of legal papers - known as skeleton and trial bundles in legal parlance - may have contributed to the judge’s decision to postpone proceedings.

A date was given for the papers to be submitted so the court and the Department of Environment could view them.

The date for the Judicial Review has now been put back until March 28 - a delay of over three months - and Councillors Seamus Doyle and Jim McElroy were quick to criticise what they see as another “frustrating delay” in the protracted campaign to bring the superstore to Banbridge.

Speaking to the Leader yesterday (Monday), Mr Doyle said he was “very disappointed” at the news and claimed the review could have gone ahead if the vital paperwork had been ready.

“NIIRTA has had over six months to make their objections and they have held back until the last minute,” said Mr Doyle. “I am bitterly disappointed that this has taken place because it means another long delay before we know if Banbridge will benefit from the much-needed jobs and investment which will undoubtedly link in with Tesco opening at Bridgewater Park.

“As has already been said, hundreds of jobs are at risk and associated construction employment under threat as long as this Tesco enterprise is delayed.”

Councillor Jim McElroy, who was behind a plea by Banbridge District Council urging NIIRTA to abandon its plans for a Judicial Review, also criticised the latest delay for the project which was finally granted outline planning approval in March this year.

“This delay will hold up potential investment in the town for at least another three months,” said Mr McElroy. “We need a decision on this sooner rather than later. This is bitterly disappointing.

“If NIIRTA had submitted their paperwork before the court deadline it was likely the review would have gone ahead.”

Chief executive of NIIRTA, Glyn Roberts, refused to be drawn on the reasons why papers were not submitted before the deadline, but said he too was disappointed with the adjournment.

“We very much share the disappointment of Councillor Doyle as we had hoped this case could have been heard last week,” said Mr Roberts. “We have a new date on 28th March and we hope then there will be a speedy resolution. It is in no-one’s interests for this to be delayed.”

The association launched an application for Judicial Review on the grounds that a Tesco superstore at Bridgewater Park would potentially take shoppers out of the town centre and adversely affect town centre trade.

At the time, Mr Roberts stated, “NIIRTA brought this case because we have major concerns that this proposed out-of-town hypermarket would remove £18m from Banbridge town centre, resulting in small, independent traders closing and the net loss of hundreds of jobs”.