REPRESENTATIVES of Crumlin traders and Antrim Council have clashed after planners decided to recommend the application for a new Tesco store in the town should be given the go ahead.

They made the decision after Antrim Council supported the application. The Northern Ireland Independent Retailers' Association said the council had withdrawn an invitation for them to present their case but the council insists NIIRTA declined to speak to the committee which also heard from Tesco representatives.

Spokesperson for Crumlin traders, Cormac Green, said he could not understand the views of over 1000 local people handed could be ignored and said they were due to make a presentation to the Council later this month.

Mr Green said: "We are simply staggered by this decision. Antrim Council, after listening to a presentation by Tesco, voted to support their application for a 40,000 sq ft edge of town store without waiting to listen to local traders at a meeting, which had been set for October 23.

"Antrim Council also withdrew the invitation to us to present to them and hand over the petition. Now that the Planning Service have indicated their belief that the proposal can go ahead, it is clear that the decision, which will have an immense impact on the vitality and economy of our town, will have been taken without giving local retailers and local residents any opportunity to air their views."

"Surely it is only fair that Antrim Council should have at least listened to both sides before making a decision?"

Glyn Roberts, NIIRTA Chief Executive, said: "We are very disappointed that this application now looks likely to go ahead without local retailers or residents ever having had the opportunity to have their say."

However, a council spokeswoman rejected the claims and insisted they had offered both NIIRTA and Tesco an equal opportunity to make representation.

"Both parties were invited to attend the Public Services Committee on September 25. A telephone call was made to NIIRTA on August 18 to advise them of the invitation and this was followed up with a letter of invitation issued on August 29. Tesco accepted the invitation. However, NIIRTA declined."

The council spokeswoman added that on hearing this, a follow up telephone call was made to NIIRTA asking them to attend the meeting so that both sides could be heard.

"However, no NIIRTA representatives attended the meeting. Based on the information presented to the elected members on September 25, it was decided that a letter of support for Tesco's application be issued to Planning Service, who ultimately have the final decision regarding the application," she said.

She added: "At the Council meeting on October 9, elected members again decided to issue another invitation to NIIRTA to make representation to the Public Services Committee on October 23."

Colin Hampsey, Corporate Affairs Manager for Tesco, said: "The public support for our proposed 30,000 square feet store which will bring more than 250 new jobs and a multi-million pound investment right into Crumlin town centre has been overwhelming.

"We are extremely grateful to the council who have been supportive through this process and would like to thank them for their vote of confidence letter which was sent to the planning service."