10/05/2006

John Lewis planning permission overturned

The High Court in Belfast has today overturned a decision to grant planning permission for a John Lewis store in County Antrim.

Today's decision rejects the application for the £40 million development, which had previously been given the go ahead to be built at Sprucefield, just outside Lisburn in County Antrim.

Permission had previously been granted by a the then Northern Ireland Environment Minister Lord Rooker, who agreed to allow a £200 million expansion to be added to the Sprucefield retail park, which would have included the John Lewis store, creating around 1,000 jobs.

Traders from Belfast, Lisburn and Craigavon along with Belfast City Council, went to the High Court to challenge the planning permission after the retailer was given the go-ahead in June 2005 against the advice of Planning Service officials.

After a length and complicated judgement, the High Court Judge, Mr Justice Girvan, overturned Lord Rooker's decision on the grounds that he did not follow correct procedures and added that his decision not to hold a planning inquiry into the planning application was flawed.

The judge also added that today's decision had no bearing on the John Lewis store, and continued to say that if the company were to put in a fresh planning application, which was handled properly, then it could very well be approved.

However, throughout the process, The John Lewis Partnership has insisted that it will go to Sprucefield or nowhere and that there is a limited window of opportunity within which it will open in Northern Ireland.

It is now likely that the store will open in Dublin.

(EF/SP)

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