MCE worked with long-term client Lotus Property to secure planning permission for the Dobbies at its Antrim retail park, The Junction and handling UK and Ireland communications around the deal
As part of the masterplan for revitalising The Junction retail & leisure park, landlord and owner Lotus Property and its leasing team successfully attracted the attention of garden centre retailer, Dobbies who sought to build on the success of its existing store in Lisburn and open in Antrim.
The deal was one of the largest commercial property deals on the island of Ireland in recent years and if approved, would see Dobbies become The Junction’s anchor tenant, taking over 110,000sq ft of space, following a total redevelopment of the existing retail precinct.
With the creation of 120 jobs, not to mention a £10m investment in Antrim, this deal was critical to the economic growth ambitions of Antrim and Newtownabbey Council as well as to realising the vision laid out in The Junction’s masterplan.
MCE was tasked with managing all press activity surrounding the announcement of the initial planning application to create awareness and build excitement among the business community, media and local consumers.
We were also required to liaise extensively with stakeholders to build cross party support for the project, communicating the benefits of the proposed new development in terms of economic growth, job creation and investment in the area by a UK retailer.
Working with our client and our trusted colleagues at TSA Planning, who managed the planning application, we conducted a Pre-Application Community Consultation process to gain as much feedback on the proposed new store as possible.
We worked closely with elected representatives, hosting the individual political party members at The Junction to share plans for the scheme, meet with the landlord and understand the development implications and to garner support – ensuring this planning application was processed in a timely manner, to bring this significant investment to Antrim as quickly as possible.
A media strategy was prepared and agreed, announcing the proposal and detailing the investment, working with all parties including Dobbies and the leasing agents who advised on the deal. We targeted local, daily and national media titles as well as property and retail trade press.
Plans were widely welcomed by elected representatives, local residents and shoppers with widespread media interest from local, national and trade media.
Planning permission for the new Dobbies store was granted in March 2022, supported by further media activity.
Work began immediately on the redevelopment of the land with a target opening date of Autumn 2023.