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SPECULATION is rife in Ballymoney that major UK supermarket chain Asda is eyeing up a prominent town centre site.

The rumours are sweeping the town that the leading player in the weekly shopping market is closing in on a location in the town.

If Asda - which has a major store in nearby Coleraine - set up in Ballymoney, it will be seen as major competition to the other big multi-national in the town - Tesco.

The speculation regarding Asda in Ballymoney involves a town centre site where space may be a consideration.

One source said: “If the spot being talked about is to be the place, the space involved may mean it is not large enough for a major sized store but may only have room for an on-street smaller store something like Tesco Express in Ballymena’s Church Street.”

The reaction to the addition of a major multi-national in the town, if it comes to pass, may be hard to gauge.

On the one hand, shoppers may be keen to avail of the prices Asda offers but smaller business owners may fear it will take more money from the pockets of local store owners.

There was a huge debate when Tesco came to Ballymoney and the fact that their store sells not just food but clothes and household items and there was much discussion about its location - slightly away from the Main Street.

The presence of a large Asda store about eight miles away on the Ballymoney side of Coleraine may mitigate against a large Asda store coming to Ballymoney but in recent months Asda told of their wish to develop more smaller ‘local’ stores across the UK which would have the same prices as their ‘superstores’ but be branded as ‘supermarkets’.

Ballymoney is already well served with supermarkets. Alongside Tesco, others include Lidl in Meetinghouse Street; Biesty’s, Trolan’s, John Street Spar and Milltown.

Asda recently acquired almost 150 ‘Netto’ stores in Britain but elsewhere in the UK Asda are planning 21 other stores including seven superstores, four Asda Livings, ten Asda Supermarkets and five extensions to existing stores.

Asda say a full weekly shop could be done in their smaller ‘Supermarket’ stores.

When contacted by the Times about the Ballymoney speculation, Asda would neither confirm nor deny interest in the town.

Philip Bartram, Property Communications Manager with Asda, only said that while the company is keen to expand in Northern Ireland they do not comment on speculation about potential sites.