Wellworth, one of the biggest grocery store operators in the province, claims that "many" of the Sainsbury sites have already been rejected for retail planning permission. A Sainsbury spokeswoman said "we are not aware" of any such applications having been already refused. One Sainsbury site at Ballymena has been promoted by the town council and will therefore be exempt from planning approval.
Sainsbury, the UK's biggest supermarket group, yesterday hit back at a campaign by local stores to prevent it opening its first stores in Northern Ireland. Organisers of the campaign, which was reported in the Independent on Sunday, hope to delay Sainsbury's moves by calling for planning inquiries. The UK group wants to invest pounds 100m in Northern Ireland in the next couple of years, creating 2,000 jobs.