Northern Ireland

Tesco closing stores in east Belfast and Ballymena

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Media captionThe store on the Cregagh Road in east Belfast will close in April, as John Capbell reports

Tesco is to close three shops in Northern Ireland, putting more than 150 jobs at risk.

The stores to close are at Connswater and Cregagh Road in east Belfast and Church Street in Ballymena.

The Belfast shops will close on 4 April while the Ballymena shop will close on 15 March.

They are part of 43 closures of unprofitable stores being announced across the UK.

Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis said he recognised the closures will "affect many hard working colleagues, our customers and the communities in which these stores are situated".

The Connswater shop employs 92 people and the one at Cregagh Road 59. Trade at those stores is likely to have been hit by a new Tesco on the Castlereagh Road which opened in 2012.

The Ballymena store employs 16 people. Tesco has a much bigger store at a retail park on the edge of the town.

The town's MP, Ian Paisley, said the closure would be a blow to the town centre which is " finding it increasingly difficult to attract new businesses".

He added that he understood the 16 employees in Ballymena would be offered the opportunity to redeploy across the company.

Earlier this month Tesco dropped plans to build two new stores in Northern Ireland.

It had planning permission for a 15,000 sq ft supermarket in Carryduff, County Down, and a much bigger store close to Armagh city centre.

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