Planning Restrictions Threaten John Lewis Development

New planning restrictions may have dealt a final blow to a long-running proposal to develop a John Lewis store at the Sprucefield shopping centre, despite claims from the Environment Minister they are not prejudicial to the development.

The new restrictions issued by Alex Attwood will restrict future retail developments at Sprucefield, between Lisburn and Hillsborough, to outlets that sell "bulky goods" only.

These restrictions appear to make it now unlikely the store will ever be built, despite the application having been pushed for almost a decade.

A public inquiry into the application was launched following concerns from traders in Lisburn city centre.

It adjourned in 2010 and is due to restart later this year.

Mr Attwood claims the new restrictions are part of a strategy to promote Belfast as the leading shopping location in the country.

He said he wanted to assist the commission by releasing his department's decisions on those parts of Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan (BMAP) relevant to the planning application in advance of the final adoption of the Plan at the end of March.

"I am strongly committed to putting Belfast first in these difficult times," he said.

"This is consistent with the revised Regional Development Strategy 2035 which aims to strengthen Belfast as the regional economic driver and the primary retail location in Northern Ireland. My decision today will support that as evidence indicates a high vacancy rate. I intend to take a precautionary approach to retailing."

"I also want to see Lisburn City Centre and other town centres in the metropolitan area taking additional retail floorspace. Sprucefield will play a key role as a regional centre which will complement rather than compete with Belfast and existing city and town centres. That is why I have decided to restrict future retailing at Sprucefield to bulky goods only."


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