ENVIRONMENT Minister Edwin Poots has made a dramatic U-turn and given plans for a massive Tesco Extra store at Bridgewater Park the go-ahead.

Mr Poots made the announcement on Thursday. The store will be one of the largest in Northern Ireland and will create over 400 jobs on it’s own.

Traders had opposed the new superstore, claiming that it will drive customers out of the town centre.

But Mr Poots said, “It represents major inward investment and will bring significant economic, social and environmental benefits to the area, including nearly 400 new jobs.

“With the site’s excellent road linkages, this development will boost visitor numbers to the area by enhancing the retail offer that exists at Bridgewater Park. The proposal will have wider impacts in the local economy by helping to stimulate interest in the rest of the Bridgewater Park site.

“Up to 2,000 new jobs could be created if Bridgewater Park realises its full economic potential.”

Tesco has said that it will keep its existing store on the Castlewellan Road open for at least another 10 years as well as backing an environmental improvement scheme in the town.

For more see Tuesday’s Leader.