The approval of a planning application for a Marks & Spencer food hall in Carrick has reignited debate on the regeneration of the town centre.
Proposals for the new outlet were given the green light during last Thursday’s meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Planning Committee.
The 9,000 square feet store, which will include a cafe and bakery, is expected to create 75 new jobs for the area.
However, its planned location on the Belfast Road has divided opinion among local residents.
East Antrim MLA John Stewart, whose family have been trading in Carrickfergus town centre since the 1950s said: “This would have been fantastic for the town centre and could have helped towards much needed regeneration there. That being said the application was made for the Belfast Road location and the planning committee passed it.
“This will be great addition to Carrickfergus and will provide a significant number of new local jobs.”
This view was echoed by a number of Facebook users, many of whom believed the town’s retail heart should be given higher priority.
One wrote: “Too many local businesses have been destroyed by the big supermarkets already. I hope this addition brings more to the town instead of finishing it.”
Meanwhile, the lack of available parking in the town centre was highlighted as one of the reasons why the Belfast Road may have been the preferred location.
Despite this, many residents welcomed the imminent arrival of one of the UK’s best-known retailers to the area, with hopes that others will follow suit.
“We need more big names in this town,” one resident commented.
The store was originally expected to open in Spring 2018.
“The developer has had to revise this timescale, so it will be after Christmas before we have a date for opening,” a spokesperson for M&S said.