01/06/2005

Government give go-ahead for John Lewis development

The Government has confirmed that leading retailer John Lewis is to open up its first Northern Ireland store at Sprucefield Park, near Lisburn.

The decision, which has been criticised by many including Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce, will see a new 220,000 sq ft department store housed at the site, with around 700 jobs being created in store and a further 200 in warehousing.

The company said Sprucefield was the "only viable location" for the £40 million development, having ruled out Belfast city centre, saying it could not sustain a full-range department store.

Commenting on the decision, Environment Minister Jeff Rooker said he was convinced that the decision was in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland.

“There are very positive economic and social benefits associated with this proposal in the overall public interest,” Mr Rooker said. “John Lewis is a major name in retailing and its entry into the Northern Ireland retail sector represents further choice for the Northern Ireland consumer and complements the retail experience on offer in other centres.”

John Lewis Director of Retail Operations, Gareth Thomas, said: "We believe that today's decision represents good news for the whole of Northern Ireland and will secure substantial economic investment and jobs for the province.

"We are also confident that our first department store on the island of Ireland will complement the additional major retail development currently underway in Belfast city centre and will greatly enhance the overall retail offering of Northern Ireland."

DUP Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson said he was "absolutely delighted" by the move.

"This is good news story for Lisburn and a good news story for Northern Ireland," he said.

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