Crunch John Lewis talks set for today

Jeffrey Donaldson MP
Jeffrey Donaldson MP

Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson is meeting with the owners of Sprucefield Park today (Thursday) to discuss new plans for John Lewis after last week’s High Court ruling.

The High Court ruled that the authorisation of the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan (BMAP) was unlawful as SDLP Environment Minister Mark Durkan failed to secure the agreement of the Executive for his decision.

Mr Donaldson is in London today to meet with the INTU development team to discuss a new planning application for the John Lewis store, which has previously been prevented by the BMAP.

Mr Donaldson said: “I am delighted with the recent ruling of the High Court to uphold the challenge by the First Minster Arlene Foster against the decision by the Environment Minister to place planning restrictions on further development at Sprucefield under the BMAP.

“We believe the victory by the First Minister will pave the way for INTU, who are the owners of Sprucefield Park, to submit a new planning application for a John Lewis store at Sprucefield.”

BMAP identifies zones for retail, residential and commercial development across Belfast and outlying areas including Lisburn.

Among the most contentious issues was a retail plan that would restrict any Sprucefield expansion to bulky goods only.

“In addition to the John Lewis store, I do not expect there to be smaller shop units included in the development and instead any new plans will reflect the regional nature of this shopping centre,” said Mr Donaldson.

Before any of that happens, the Environment Minister must fail to reach agreement with the other parties in the Executive and then the BMAP will be invalidated. Mr Donaldson is confident of this happening.

He said: “There should be no undue delay in reaching such a consensus and the DUP will use its position on the Executive to ensure that BMAP is changed so that the planning restrictions on Sprucefield are removed.

“I have already been in contact with John Lewis about the implications of the court ruling.”

Mr Donaldson said that this ruling will benefit Sprucefield and Lisburn as a whole, as the city becomes more attractive to potential businesses and shoppers.

“This will be good for Lisburn City centre as it means Sprucefield can attract large number of shoppers to the area without being in direct competition with our high street shops,” he said.

“The challenge for all of us is to attract many of the shoppers who come to Sprucefield to make the short journey into Lisburn to enjoy a high quality retail and leisure experience.

“That is what the new public realm scheme was designed to do and we must redouble our efforts to attract new shops and boutiques into Lisburn.

“That is why I will also be meeting with the senior management of MARCOL who are the new owners of Lisburn Square to discuss their plans to enhance the retail offer in Lisburn City Centre.”