MP to meet First Minister over John Lewis concerns

Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson is to meet First Minister Peter Robinson to discuss the planning stalemate with the John Lewis development at Sprucefield.

Mr Donaldson said he would be urging the First Minister to reaffirm the status of Sprucefield as a regional shopping centre in order to clear the way for the multi-national retailer to develop its first store in Northern Ireland.

“I am meeting with the First Minister to discuss the saga of John Lewis and the previous decision of the Environment Minister to change the planning status of Sprucefield so that major retailers can no longer locate there unless they deal only in bulky goods,” he said.

Mr Donaldson said campaigners wanted to see that decision overturned.

He added, “I am hoping the First Minister can take further initiative in the Executive to make the way clear to have Sprucefield’s status as a regional shopping centre firmly reinstated.”

This week, John Lewis once again reiterated their firm belief that Sprucefield is the only viable option for them and that they would be continuing to monitor the planning situation in Northern Ireland.

“John Lewis’ consistent position remains that Sprucefield is the only suitable location in Northern Ireland to successfully operate a full-line department store,” said a spokesperson for the company. “We continue to monitor the current and future planning policy environment in Northern Ireland.”

Mr Donaldson’s high level meeting comes just weeks after Lisburn City Council called on the leaders of the main political parties to declare their position on the proposed John Lewis development, which could bring some 1,500 jobs to the greater Lisburn area.

At the January meeting of the council’s Planning Committee, the members agreed to write to each of the party leaders asking them to declare whether or not they were supportive of the John Lewis development and, if they were, what steps they would take to ensure the development went ahead.