The new owner of Sprucefield Park, Intu Ltd, has said it hopes to convince John Lewis to submit a fresh planning application for the Lisburn site.
John Lewis has always said it is committed to bringing its first store in Northern Ireland to Sprucefield. However, plans were put on hold when former Environment Minister Alex Attwood announced that sales at Sprucefield should be restricted to “bulky goods”.
Now, with the sale of the Sprucefield site to Intu, the company behind major shopping centres such as the Trafford Centre in Manchester, hope has been renewed that John Lewis could finally get the go ahead for its first local store.
Lisburn Councillor Alexander Redpath, who has been talking to the new owners of Sprucefield, welcomed the renewed interest in the John Lewis proposal.
“I’m very glad to welcome the renewed interest in the John Lewis development,” said Mr Redpath. “I have spoken to the purchasers of the Sprucefield development and they have exciting plans for the site. One plan they have is convincing John Lewis to submit a fresh planning application.
“I would urge local traders to reconsider their objections to the John Lewis development. Sprucefield is a regional shopping centre and could be a benefit to the city centre if handled properly. We have to abandon the very narrow view that Sprucefield and Lisburn City Centre can only benefit at the other’s expense. We must focus on creating a synergy between the two sites so they can benefit from one another.
“To make this plan a reality we must achieve two things. We need to overhaul our planning system to make major developments deliverable. I believe the Planning Bill moving through the assembly is recognition of the fact that the current system isn’t fit for purpose. Secondly we need to quash Alex Atwood’s “bulky goods” planning policy which limits developments like John Lewis going outside Belfast. This policy is blatant economic protectionism and is grossly unfair to the towns and cities surrounding Belfast.”