Downpatrick: Concern over Asda jobs after flooding

A large green Asda sign on top of one of the supermarket chain's buildings
A large green Asda sign on top of one of the supermarket chain's buildings

Politicians have expressed concern about jobs at an Asda supermarket in County Down after last week's flooding caused structural damage to the store.

The shop in Downpatrick has been closed while engineers assessed the damage.

Asda has yet to confirm whether it will be able to reopen the supermarket.

But a Sinn Féin politician said she had spoken to the supermarket's management team and it did not look like they could resume trading in the building due to the level of damage.

MLA Cathy Mason told BBC News NI that the engineers' report "didn't look like it was good".

She said: "[The management] said they had spoken to the staff and they were going to keep as many jobs as possible.

"In the longer term they're still working through what they're going to do."

'We're supporting the town'

In a statement to BBC News NI, Asda said: "A further update will be provided once the findings [of the engineers' report] have been reviewed.

"In the meantime we are looking at alternative ways to service our customers."

The supermarket said it would "soon" restore its click-and-collect service from its car park in Downpatrick and customers could also book online delivery slots.

It added: "The Asda Foundation has also made a number of donations to local community groups to assist with the clean-up operation and we will continue to look at other ways to support the town in the coming weeks."

A man walks through flood water up to his knees on Downpatrick's main shopping street
Downpatrick was one of the towns worst-hit by flooding in Northern Ireland last week

Ms Mason said that in her conversation with the shop's management she had stressed the need to protect as many jobs as possible.

"I will continue to meet with Asda in the time ahead and urge them to retain workers, protect jobs and ensure Downpatrick recovers from recent flooding as quickly as possible," she added.

'Fingers crossed'

In a post on Facebook, SDLP MLA Colin McGrath said it was "tough news that the store is structurally challenged".

He added: "Staff are being maintained and will have jobs in different locations in short term and the store is formulating plans for a temporary shop to trade in until plans can be developed for the future.

"Downpatrick needs Asda and I know Asda are committed to Downpatrick. Fingers crossed for the future."

The flooding happened after days of torrential rain in parts of Northern Ireland last week.

Downpatrick was one of the worst-affected areas, with its main shopping street under deep floodwater, causing devastation to dozens of business premises.

The UK government has offered a £15m fund to help flooded firms with clean-up costs and to get them trading again.

But many have said the amount of money on offer falls well short of what they need to repair their premises.