The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) has called on Stormont to increase rates for out of town supermarkets, claiming that they are “destroying” town centres.

Speaking at the Retail NI 09 Conference, NIIRTA chief executive Glyn Roberts said that out of town multiples take business away from town centres.

He said: “There is no doubt that the big multiple supermarkets, when they locate in an out-of-town location, enjoy a significant and unfair competitive advantage over town centre retailers.”

Roberts called for higher rates for both existing sites and any future out-of-town retail developments that may be given approval.

“It is only right that they should pay significantly higher rates for this advantage,” he said. “This additional revenue should be ring-fenced and used to fund town centre regeneration schemes to try to repair the damage they have done to our town centres.”

Roberts added that Northern Irish independent retailers are not opposed to multiple stores opening up, but rather the out of town locations.

“Towns such as Antrim, Larne, Lurgan, Carrickfergus and Derry have, as a result of out-of-town multiples, seen closure of long-standing retailers and loss of jobs,” he said. “However when the big multiples establish themselves in a town centre location it adds to the overall retailer offer and attracts extra footfall for independent retailers, so why not join with the rest of us and invest and locate in our town centres?”