28/08/2008

'Scaled Down' John Lewis Sprucefield Plans To Be Sumitted

Revised planning proposals for a £200 million John Lewis store in Northern Ireland are to be unveiled today.

The fresh plans come amid strong opposition to the Sprucefield site from local commerce groups.

Venture partners Westfield - owner of Belfast's CastleCourt shopping centre - and local developer Snoddon Developments are expected to present their application to Lisburn City Council later.

A press conference is due to be held after the meeting.

So far Westfield and John Lewis have declined to comment on their submission.

However, plans for the shopping complex have reportedly been scaled down, with the amount of additional shops slashed.

Previous proposals for the store encompassed the provision of 29 concessions, in addition to the anchor tenant - John Lewis.

These plans riled traders in Belfast, Lisburn, Banbridge and Craigavon, who feared their businesses would be adversely affected.
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The most vocal opposition came from the Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce, who led the calls for locally elected representatives to step-in.

Now, in a suggested attempt to appease objectors, the developers have cut the number of auxiliary shops at the Sprucefield site to fewer than 20.

Stormont Junior Minister Jeffrey Donaldson, speaking to the Belfast Telegraph earlier this week, urged all stakeholders to rally behind the new plans.

The Lagan Valley MLA warned major retailers, such as John Lewis, were likely to walk away from investment opportunities in Northern Ireland, should they face lengthy planning squabs.

A view supported by the former mayor of Lisburn, Jim Dillon.

Mr Dillon said much-needed spending could be lost to the Republic of Ireland if the John Lewis failed to receive permission for a Sprucefield store.

"If there's one at Sprucefield then the people of Northern Ireland will come here, not the one in Dublin,

"But if you don't build at Sprucefield, there's a motorway practically from Sprucefield to Dublin and there'll be down there in an hour and a half," he added.

(PR/JM)

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John Lewis objectors take their case to court
The planning approval for a new John Lewis superstore in Lisburn has been challenged at the High Court on Thursday. Belfast City Council and the Chamber of Trade and Commerce combined to mount the joint challenge to the planning approval, which was given in June despite going against the advice of Planning Service officials.
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