LEADING DUP and SDLP council members have said they have “no regrets” for supporting the £24,000 price tag estimated for the Asda land a fortnight ago “based on the information available at the time”.
Alderman Sydney Anderson (DUP) and Councillor Joe Nelson (SDLP) said there was a danger that Asda might have abandoned the Edenderry project, had the land for the storm drain outlet not been transferred quickly. Councillor Nelson added that the £24,000 was a commercial estimate at the time, and that no definitive valuation had been made as the council’s valuer was unable to establish key land value.
The two councillors insisted their first and last consideration was to protect the 450 jobs and the £multi-million investment by the company “not to mention the extra revenue created in the way of rates”.
Alderman Anderson said, “The original decision (to accept the £24,000) was made on the facts presented on the night. Not to proceed would have placed the whole Asda project in jeopardy, with the possibility of losing the 450 jobs and the generation of the whole Edenderry area, not to mention the revenue that Asda would generate in rates for the borough.
“Edenderry had lain derelict for many years, and maybe it would be Councillor McGibbon’s desire to see this area of Portadown continue to be neglected, while seeing Portadown Public Park regenerated at a cost of £7m. As a public representative for Portadown, I will not allow this to happen to Edenderry. I and my party make no apology for the original decision.”
Councillor Nelson insisted that he, too, made the decision based on the information available, adding that the £90,000 estimate on Monday night was based, not on the commercial price as key land value remained unestablished, but on the fact that Asda had been made “an alternative offer to another party for the storm drain route”.
He added, “My information is that the alternative route would have held up the Asda project and we had to move quickly. Legal advice was that the decision could not be made because of jobs or investment, but on purely the value of the land, and that’s why the SDLP changed its vote. But I have to say that, based on the original information available, I would do the same thing again. Under no circumstances could we have placed in jeopardy such a major investment.”