‘TIME TO MOVE FORWARD’ Cllr Mary Kelly
Ballina Town Council agrees to sell site to Tesco
Councillors deny €21m development will hurt small businesses
Ballina Town Council agreed to sell 2.35 acres of land to Tesco for €3.4 million. At last week’s council meeting, councillors voted unanimously to sell the land to the UK retail giant, bringing the proposed €21 million development and the possibility of 100 new jobs a step closer.
Details of Tesco’s ambitious plans to move from its existing store, which currently employs 68 people, to a new town-centre location at Pearse Street/Humbert Street were outlined to local representatives by Senior Executive Officer for Mayo County Council Paul Benson. Mr Benson told representatives that Tesco plans to employ 160-170 people once the new facility is ready.
A planning application for the 40,000-square-foot development is expected to be lodged next June or July, and the retailer will be in a position to buy the site once planning permission has been approved.
Project a ‘win-win’
The motion to dispose of the land, acquired by compulsory purchase order, to Tesco was formally proposed by Independent councillor Mary Kelly and was subsequently seconded by Cllr Gerry Ginty.
Cllr Kelly said that she believes the proposal is a ‘win-win’ for Tesco and Ballina Town Council, highlighting the fact that its central location would draw shoppers into the town centre and aid existing businesses there. She added that its potential for job creation was also a boon. “Anything that creates more jobs is a welcome development.”
Cllr Gerry Ginty echoed Cllr Kelly’s sentiment that new Tesco will benefit other businesses in the town. “I know there will be people who will be afraid of the effect on small businesses, but I don’t believe it will [be negative] … People don’t just come to town to shop in Tesco, they will have a coffee and buy diesel and there will be a carry-on.”
Mr Benson said Tesco’s proposed underground car-parking facility would also provide a net gain of more than 180 parking spaces, which he said could help facilitate the development of the Market Square for future events in the town centre.
Benson believes that construction work could begin as early as 2014.
Cllr Kelly said she was anxious that suitable arrangements would be made by Tesco to locate another premises in the town while construction was under way, and she said this should be included as a condition by the council. Cllr Kelly said it would make life very difficult for some existing employees if they were transferred to Swinford or Claremorris during the construction period, which could last up to two years.
Mr Benson stated that Tesco was doing everything possible to locate a suitable premises, but that traffic management, congestion and parking facilities were all factors which made it impossible for Tesco to give a definitive commitment that a temporary premises would be found.
Mr Benson said negotiations would continue and everything would be done to address the concerns of the councillors. “We have to be mindful we don’t push too hard and lose it. I don’t think anyone in the town would thank us for that when we’re so close,” he said.
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