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Fresh concerns aired over town’s empty business park

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Fresh concerns aired over town’s empty business park thumbnailThe empty Strabane Business Park.

FRESH concerns have been aired over the town's business park which has yet to see a single tenant move on site - four years after opening.

The huge site on the Melmount Road opened to much-fanfare but has lain dormant since. That is despite soundings from Invest NI that, so far, 12 businesses have "expressed an interest" in locating to the huge site.

A planning application to open a factory unit on the site was also lodged with Derry City and Strabane District Council (DCSDC) earlier this year giving hope that the site could get its first tenant.

Planning approval was granted in January this year but the identity of the interested company has not been confirmed nor has there been any sign of work on the site. It's understood the factory intends to produce curry and gravy sauces, creating six jobs.

It emerged recently too that thousands of pounds is being spent on the upkeep of the industrial site.

Strabane Business Park officially opened in March 2013 following an investment of £6 million and was designed to address the shortage of industrial land available across the district.

The lack of progress has frustrated many locally. Independent councillor, Patsy Kelly, brought the matter up at the monthly meeting of council when he asked officials to press Invest NI for an update.

Head of Business and Culture, Stephen Gillespie, duly agreed to investigate and bring a report back to council.

Speaking afterwards, Cllr Kelly described the site as a 'white elephant' and says local people are anxious to see progress.

"We were told last year that there was a tenant for the park but there doesn't seem to have been any movement on that yet. Yes, I know things take some time but this site has been open for four years now.

"People are asking questions and those questions have to be asked of Invest NI. What are they doing to attract investment into that park? Are there more clients potentially interested in locating there? When we will we actually see businesses there on the ground?

"The park is costing thousands of pounds and yet no one is there. Perhaps, Invest NI should be considering building some units there so it's easier for businesses who are starting up to move on site rather than them having to start from scratch.

"Of course it is welcome news to know that there are businesses interested in coming but people want to see these become a reality sooner rather than later."

He added: "This is an issue which has been going on for some time. Both I and other councillors brought it up on the old legacy council and it seems to be a white elephant just sitting up there. We need some clarity from Invest NI as to what is going on."

Responding to an application from this newspaper seeking an update on the site, a spokesperson for Invest NI said it is actively promoting the park but would not comment on the status of the single application.

"Strabane Business Park, since it opened in 2013, Invest NI has received expressions of interest from 12 businesses about locating there," she said.

"A company's investment within the business park is largely dependent on it securing the necessary funding to purchase a serviced site, develop their facility and achieve relevant statutory approvals such as planning permission, all of which can take some time and are outside Invest NI's control.

"If and when a company decides to locate at Strabane Business Park, this will be formally announced by Invest NI and/or the company.

"In the meantime, we continue to engage with relevant stakeholders over the promotion of the park as an investment location."

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