Tesco and Dunnes 'hindering efforts to attract new Connswater tenants'
EFFORTS to secure new anchor tenants and Connswater Shopping Centre in east Belfast are being hampered by its former occupants Tesco and Dunnes Stores, it has been claimed.
Management at the centre has accused the retail giants of breaching conditions of their lease.
The retailers each moved out of the complex last year, but Connswater said conditions of long term leases obliged them to remain trading - or find new tenants.
The departure of the two stores resulted in the loss of hundreds of full and part-time jobs and left many questioning the future viability of the centre.
And almost 18 months after the closures, the two large units at either end of the shopping mall remain empty.
Connswater centre manager Gerry Monaghan accused Tesco and Dunnes of dragging their heels over the issue.
"We are aware that talks are taking place to find a solution but we are frustrated at the pace of progress," he said,
"We would urge Tesco and Dunnes to present fresh proposals to find a way out of this impasse."
Chairwoman of Connswater Traders' Association Jolene Gibson said some retailers were waiting to occupy the units.
"We have reason to believe that there is at least one national retailer expressing interest in moving in but we are frustrated that almost year and a half on there continues to be a lack of will to get this resolved," she said.
"This issue has gone on far too long. Both Tesco and Dunnes have had ample time to find alternative tenants. We are heartened by the expression of interest from other retailers but we need to get them over the line. We don't believe the two leaseholders have pursued an alternative tenant as vigorously as they could have done."
Dunnes moved out of Connswater in February last year, soon after Tesco had announced its intention to leave.
Tesco departed in April 2015, leaving the centre without a major food retail outlet and with a total of 87,000 square feet of empty retail space.
A spokesman for Tesco said: "We are continuing to work with the landlords to identify a suitable new tenant. We will of course update the community when these discussions are complete."
Dunnes failed to respond when asked by the Irish News to comment on the allegations.