Co Antrim charity store faces closure over planning decision

Blythswood Ireland chief executive Gary Anderson and shop assistant Paula McCullough outside the charity shop on Antrim’s Greystone Road
Ryan McAleer

A CHARITY shop set up in a former Antrim car dealership has said it faces closure after Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council rejected its retrospective planning application.

Blythswood Ireland set up the second-hand furniture store on the Greystone Road in the former Volvo car dealership previously operated by Greers. The store opened in January 2017, but a planning application was not submitted until June 2019.

The charity said the revenue from its store “provides vital aid to people in poverty-stricken Eastern Europe”, Its annual shoebox appeal typically distributes 15,000 shoeboxes to Eastern Europe.

In a statement, Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council its planning committee had refused the application for retrospective planning permission on the basis that the charity had failed to demonstrate that it had exhausted all potential retail sites in Antrim town centre, as per planning policy.

The charity's chief executive, Gary Anderson said its unique requirements made a town centre location unworkable.

“Our business model is to locate in a position that facilitates easy car-parking for the dropping off and picking up of furniture and bulky items and this works successfully in many of our locations including Antrim. We also require a sizeable storage facility beside the shop to restore the furniture and place it for sale.”

He confirmed Blythswood Ireland will appeal the decision.

“Our hope is that the Planning Appeals Commission reverse this bitterly disappointing decision. We believe passionately that we have a location that works for the local community, works for our charitable aims and works for the council in re-using and recycling preloved furniture and other items.”

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