Northern Ireland Environment Minister Alex Attwood should I think be commended for his refusal of four out of town retail planning applications which had been submitted for the Londonderry area. It is however unfortunate that he could not have dealt with, (and refused), a further four applications which are still pending. Worse still is the news that he has given permission for Asda to build a new store at the Crescent Link Retail Park.
We are told that this new store will create 350 jobs. I suspect that at least some of these will be part time and it would therefore be interesting to know the number of full time jobs that this figure of 350 equates to. Whilst Asda may be adding 350 jobs to their total workforce I wonder how many new jobs will result from this development? How many jobs will be lost in the smaller locally and regionally owned supermarkets in the area and even from the existing Tescos and Sainsbury?
Mr Attwood seems to believe that this new supermarket will bring people into the City from the North West and from Co. Donegal. Surely if they wanted the pleasure of going to a supermarket they could go to one of the existing outlets. Have Messrs. Tesco, Sainsbury, Lidl et all announced that they cannot cope with the local demand for baked beans? I don't think they have. If someone from Londonderry, the greater North West or even Co Donegal feels the need to surround their groceries in bags bearing the Asda logo they do have the option of driving to Strabane or Coleraine.
When will it be realised that demand is finite? If that point is appreciated then it will also be appreciated that a new supermarket will just shuffle the customer base around.