'Tesco man may stand for Council'

THE Tesco debate which has gripped Ballycastle in recent years could be set to be catapulted in to the mix for this May's Local Government elections, the Times can reveal.

That's because Martin McCormick, a prominent campaigner in the battle to bring Tesco to Ballycastle's Leyland Road, has "not ruled out" standing for Moyle Council as an Independent working on a 'Bring Tesco to Ballycastle' ticket.

Mr McCormick told us: "I have been approached by a number of people to ask me to stand for Council to put the Tesco situation to the forefront of the campaign and although I have yet to make up my mind I have not ruled it out."

Mr McCormick is a taxi driver and in recent years he has carried out informal surveys of his customers which he says shows there is overwhelming support for Tesco coming to Ballycastle.

He said: "Tesco is a really big issue especially with the credit crunch and many people struggling to make ends meet. Many people in Ballycastle want to be able to avail of the competitive prices available through a big multinational like Tesco instead of having to pay to travel out of the town to places like Ballymoney or Coleraine to do their weekly or fortnightly shopping.

"And the importance of the issue with local people was evident by the turnout at the impromptu meeting we had on the issue at the home of Matty McNeill on the Leyland Road and then the turn out of more than 100 people to a protest meeting outside Moyle Council that Tesco which succeeded in making the Council do a U-turn," said Mr McCormick.

Already hundreds of people have gone online supporting a campaign for planners to give the go-ahead for a Tesco store at Leyland Road.

But there are also opponents of the scheme.

Many businesses in the centre of the town say a Tesco at Leyland Road - or "out of town" as they see it - could have a big impact on their trade.

With that in mind customers in a number of shops have been asked to sign petitions effectively calling for planners to reject the Leyland Road Tesco plan.

Martin McCormick claimed the 'anti-Tesco' move does not actually mention Tesco but the campaign is entitled 'Save Our Town. Stop Out of Town Development'.

He believed the words were deliberately chosen to "potentially hoodwink" people into thinking they were doing something good for Ballycastle as he said if it was branded as 'anti-Tesco' not as many people would support it.

Meanwhile, another prominent Tesco campaigner, pensioner Matty McNeill, called into the Ballymoney Times office last Wednesday to point that whilst she travelled on the bus that day to Ballymoney to shop at Tesco in the town there were at least five other people doing the same thing.

"If there was a Tesco in Ballycastle those people would stay in the town," she said.

Report: Nevin Farrell.