Lisburn councillors have said they agree with the decision by the Planning Service to reject an application for a massive extension to Bow Street Mall.
In 2008 an application was lodged with the Planning Service seeking permission for a massive extension to the shopping centre, which would include the demolition of existing premises in Antrim Street.
At the time, speculation was rife that the Mall intended to build a 250,000 sq ft store for an anchor tenant, with strong suggestions this was being targeted at John Lewis.
In rejecting the application, which is due to go before Lisburn City Council’s Planning Committee next week, the Planning Service said the development would “result in harm to the townscape and character of Lisburn City Centre.”
At this week’s meeting of Lisburn City Council’s Planning Committee, the Chairman, Councillor Uel Mackin, said the council was “in favour of economic development” but that on further examination of the Bow Street Mall plan, it was felt it would encroach on existing traders in the area,
“The impact on traders would be extremely high,” said Mr Mackin. “I would have to welcome the recommendation of the Planning Service to refuse the application.”
The Chairman of the Council’s Economic Development Committee, Alderman Allan Ewart, who is also Vice Chairman of Lisburn City Centre Management, said: “This council has a city centre masterplan and it does not include this proposal. New businesses are opening in Lisburn and we are not against economic development in the city.”
Alderman Jim Dillon said he was unsure whether the developer was still committed to the proposal. “This application is contrary to the policy of this council and when an application is wrong we have to support the Planners.”
Councillor Stephen Martin said Lisburn was coming through difficult economic times and that this application, if it had been given the go ahead, would be detrimental to the city centre.
“Lisburn has proved much more resilient than other towns and cities,” said Mr Martin. “The scope of this application was so vast and transformative it would have had a very serious detrimental impact.”
Councillor Jenny Palmer pointed out that the development would have encroached on land at Tonagh Primary School, who had also objected to the scheme. “I would deem this development to be totally unsuitable,” she said. “It would impact on residents of Ridgeway Street and Tonagh Primary School.”
Councillor Tim Mitchell, who works in retail in Lisburn city centre, and serves on the new Lisburn and Castlereagh Council, commented: “Concerns were raised about this development by local traders and conservationists. We need to get the balance right between attracting new developments into the city and protecting what we have. It is obliviously disappointing to see the planning service refuse yet another development in Lisburn but I believe the decision took proper account of the reservations of objectors.”
“In light of the decision it is incumbent on the council and local traders to assess how we can market Lisburn as a place to do business in. It should also strengthen our resolve to secure a John Lewis Store in the area.”