Asda closure potentially 'detrimental' to Downpatrick following floods

A shop manager in Downpatrick says the closure of a local supermarket due to severe flooding could be 'detrimental' to the town.

Nuala Maguire is just days away from opening Houston's homeware store on Market Street, the worst affected area when floods hit nearly two weeks ago.

Her shop, other independent retailers, as well as supermarket giant Asda, were all left partially submerged following the flooding.

This week, Asda confirmed that after a structural report being carried out, the shop would be closed for 'the foreseeable future'.

In a statement provided to UTV, the retailer said: "To continue serving our loyal customers, we are operating a click and collect service from our Portadown store and increasing the number of home delivery slots available in the local area.

"We are also running a bus service twice daily to our Portadown store starting this Thursday.

"We are committed to Downpatrick and are aiming to open a temporary store in the next few weeks while we continue to explore all options for a permanent store. We will provide a further update on these plans once we have more information to share.”

Nuala Maguire and her team are putting the finishing touches to Houston's before reopening on Friday.

"The water was up to about knee level in the shop, so anything at that level had to be binned," she said.

She fears Asda's doors being closed could harm footfall in the town in the run-up to Christmas.

Nuala added: "People come from Killyleagh, Newcastle, all those outer areas to shop in Asda because it's a big supermarket so if the draw of Asda isn't in the town it could have a real detrimental effect on the town."

For some retailers, some light was provided in what's been a dark tunnel for many.

Brian Rogers, along with some other businesses, has received a cheque to the sum of £7,500 from Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.

It was given responsibility by the Government to hand out grants to help businesses get back on their feet.

The funding formed part of a £15m funding package from the Treasury, taken from money already destined for Stormont.

However, since the Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris announced the package last week, businesses have been critical of that total.

He said he hoped it would go some way to allow traders to open again.

"You have to be optimistic," Brian told UTV.

"It [Downpatrick] will come back, it will take time, but everybody is working together and we've all got the one cause - to make Downpatrick better again, and it will."

On Monday, Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard said affected businesses need more support - at least four time more than what's, so far, been promised.

With news that a major player in Downpatrick's retail sector will be leaving, for now, independent businesses are vowing to fight on.

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