Lagan Valley MLA Jonathan Craig has warned that any hope of bringing John Lewis to Sprucefield could have evaporated after Environment Minister Mark H Durkan withdrew the proposed Planning Bill due to “legal concerns”.
Mr Durkan said amendments to the bill, which were backed by the DUP and Sinn Fein, could run counter to the European Convention on Human Rights.
He also told the Assembly that he had planning and economic concerns.
Mr Durkan told MLAs the ability of people to challenge decisions in court is a fundamental right of citizens.
He said that legal advice was that the bill was unlawful and would be a breach of human rights.
The bill could have paved the way for the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister to designate special economic zones, which may have allowed John Lewis to finally secure planning permission for the much sought after site at Sprucefield.
However, Mr Craig has said, with the collapse of the bill, the last chance of bringing the multi-national company to Lisburn could now be lost.
“He failed to consult with his Executive colleagues and on his own bat pulled the Bill, which included Clause 16 that would have allowed the Executive to create business parks such as Sprucefield which would have allowed John Lewis to go ahead,” said Mr Craig.
“The present planning system has failed John Lewis and will continue to fail many other large businesses. These businesses will continue to see the planning system in Northern Ireland as unworkable and a process that takes too long to reach decisions,” he added.
Lisburn City Council has also expressed concern about the collapse of the Planning Bill and have agreed to write to the Minister to share their views on the matter.
Councillor Uel Mackin, Chair of the Planning Committee at Lisburn City Council said: “I feel that this action has put in jeopardy the opportunity to adequately develop the Sprucefield retail business park and in particular, the possibility of stores like John Lewis being able to trade in that area.
“I would hope that the Executive would review the situation concerning the Minister’s decision and come to a collective decision on the way forward for retail business parks and at the same time retain the opportunity to develop in turn trading.”