Efforts to continue to bring John Lewis to Sprucefield

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Local political representatives have vowed to continue working to attract retail businesses to Sprucefield, despite John Lewis saying it currently has no plans to open a store in Northern Ireland.

Last week a High Court ruling lifting restrictions on Sprucefield paved the way for more retailers to come to the site.

The lifting of the ‘bulky goods only’ restriction from the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan (BMAP) raised hopes of John Lewis finally coming to Lisburn.

However, the company told the Ulster Star that it does not have any immediate plans to open a store in the province.

But Lagan Valley MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said renewed attempts will now be made to attract the department store to Sprucefield, while the council confirmed it will also be making efforts to attract John Lewis and other retailers to the site.

Sir Jeffrey said: “This ruling confirms that the bulky goods restriction which prevented John Lewis from locating at Sprucefield has been removed.

“Those who have given up on the fight to secure this major development are wrong. I will continue to work with the company and the developers as I have done over the last number of years.

“The path is now clear for an application to be lodged and I would hope this can happen as soon as possible.”

UUP MLA Jenny Palmer said the removal of a bulky goods restriction on Sprucefield is good news for not just John Lewis but other companies.

She said: “I am overjoyed that this senseless restriction has finally been put to bed. If you had told me when I sold my family land in 2004 that we would still be waiting in 2016, I would have not believed it.

“It has been an agonising wait of more than a decade, but finally a massive barrier has been lifted. I look forward to development starting as soon as possible.

“I know that many, including myself, are keen to see a John Lewis store sited at Sprucefield. What is important to remember is that this bulky goods restriction being lifted does not only mean good news for John Lewis. It means that other companies many also consider developing there.

“I would welcome a vibrant and competitive development process, to bring as many jobs as possible to the site.”

Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council Mayor, Councillor Brian Bloomfield told the Star that the High Court’s decision creates retail opportunities for Sprucefield.

He said: “I am pleased that the restrictions which had been imposed on Sprucefield Park have been shown to be unlawful and that this decision will help ensure that the full potential of this shopping destination can eventually be realised.

“For far too long people right across Northern Ireland have been frustrated at the delays at bringing major retailers to Sprucefield and I am delighted that the future development of the site has now cleared a major obstacle in its way.

“I look forward to the major investment, job creation and retail opportunities that could be brought to Sprucefield with these more relaxed planning restrictions.”

Councillor Alexander Redpath, Chairman of the council’s Planning Committee, confirmed that potential developers would be made aware of the ruling.

He said: “BMAP outlined a number of onerous planning restrictions at Sprucefield. Our position in Lisburn was always that this was unfair so I am delighted that the High Court has backed us on that.

“The council’s economic development team are in regular contact with a wide variety of retailers including John Lewis. All potential investors will be made aware of the significance of this ruling.

“From 2019 onwards the council’s Area Plan will replace BMAP, but until then any application in respect of Sprucefield will be considered on its merits by the council Planning Committee with reference to the appropriate plan including the now amended BMAP.”

Meanwhile, Lisburn and Castlereagh councillors have hit out at Belfast City Council after it announced its intention to appeal the High Court’s decision lifting the ‘bulky goods only’ restriction on Sprucefield.

Belfast City Council has raised concerns about the potential impact further development at Sprucefield could have on the city’s retail sector. However, some Lisburn and Castlereagh representatives have slammed the City Council’s move to appeal the court’s ruling as “absolutely disgraceful.”