Green light for £15.5m Enniskillen retail park despite warning it could "decimate" town centre

A computer generated impression of the Lakelands Retail & Leisure Park in Enniskillen.

A £15.5 million retail development in Enniskillen is set to go ahead after Fermanagh and Omagh District Council's planning committee voted narrowly to approve the project against the recommendation of planning officials.

Elm Grange Limited's proposal for the the former Unipork factory site in the town includes five retail units, a hotel, cinema, indoor play centre, bowling alley and two garden centres. It also involves a coffee pod, drive-thru restaurant and a fuel station on the vacant site, which lies between the South West Acute Hospital and Enniskillen's town centre.

The developer said the Lakelands Retail & Leisure Park could bring around 320 new jobs to Enniskillen.

Fast-growing retailer The Range has already signed on for a £2.5m store, while Derry-based Brunswick Moviebowl is expected to operate a six-screen cinema.

Canadian coffee chain Tim Hortons has also been linked to the site.

But the project has proved controversial among some Enniskillen traders, who have expressed concerns over the impact it could have on the town centre.

Planning officials at Fermanagh and Omagh District Council agreed with their concerns and recommended the council reject the application.

According to planners: “The proposal will have a significant adverse impact on the trade and turnover of the town centre and, as a result, its vitality and viability.”

The council's planning committee was split down the middle on the issue on Wednesday evening, with five voting for approval and five against.

Committee chair, Sinn Féin councillor Glenn Campbell, used his deciding vote to approve the bid.

The businessmen behind Elm Grange Ltd are Mark Curran, managing director of Co Armagh motor parts company CMP, and Frank Curran, managing director of Moy development firm Roxborough Plant & Construction.

In a social media post, the developers said they were "over the moon" at the decision and said they could not have secured the green light “without the support and words of encouragement from the people of Enniskillen”.

But the chief executive of Retail NI, Glyn Roberts branded the decision "shameful" and claimed it breaches 'town centre first' policy.

"We believe this application won't complement the existing retail offer," he said. "It is in fact a competing town centre which will decimate what is a well-established and successful Enniskillen town centre.

"It beggars belief that such an outdated business model has been approved. As we have seen before with countless other out-of-town retail development, it always destroys and displaces existing town centre retail jobs."

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