Givan vows to challenge minister over John Lewis

LAGAN Valley DUP MLA Paul Givan will be leading a debate at Stormont on the John Lewis development at Sprucefield.

Speaking after securing the debate on February 26 Mr Givan said: “This debate will be an opportunity to confront Environment Minister Alex Attwood after his statement resulted in John Lewis withdrawing their planning application, costing £150m of investment and hundreds of jobs that would have been created through this development at Sprucefield. The public are rightly outraged by this decision and it is important that a voice is raised in the Assembly to represent the view of the overwhelming majority of people on this important issue.“

He continued: “After years of delay caused by the numerous attempts to frustrate this development through commercially vested interests using the Courts to challenge every step taken by the Planning Service and Planning Appeals Commission to consider this application and political manoeuvrings by some Belfast politicians it is remarkable that John Lewis has said they remain committed to developing at Sprucefield and will review their position after the Executive has considered the relevant retail policy.”

Mr Givan added: “The statement of intention by Alex Attwood to restrict retail development at Sprucefield and in the Greater Belfast Area to ‘bulky goods only’ is hugely damaging to retail development opportunities in the Belfast Metropolitan Area and the very clearly stated objective of putting Belfast first to the detriment of Sprucefield must be exposed and challenged.

“The First Minister has made it clear the Executive will now be making the decision on this policy issue and my ministerial colleagues will continue to raise this at Government level.

“The Assembly will now also have the opportunity to debate this issue and my message will be very clear that John Lewis has my support to develop at Sprucefield and every effort must be made to facilitate this multi-million pounds investment opportunity that Northern Ireland can ill-afford to turn away.”