John Lewis is to submit “significantly different” plans for Sprucefield later this year.
According to Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson, the retail giant’s proposals now stand a better chance of approval after having previously been rejected by then Environment Minister Alex Attwood.
Mr Donaldson was part of a Lisburn delegation that met John Lewis Partnership representatives and the owners of Sprucefield Park, INTU, recently in London.
They were told that John Lewis’ only option in Ireland remains Sprucefield despite their plans having been frustrated over the course of the last decade.
John Lewis’ previous proposals were thwarted amidst opposition from a vocal Belfast lobby. Mr Attwood ruled that sales at Sprucefield Park should be restricted to ‘bulky goods’.
“I am convinced that this latest initiative has a high chance of success and we will be giving John Lewis our full support,” Mr Donaldson said.
“With 1,000 acres of prime development land at west Lisburn and the Maze, we have the biggest potential investment hub in Northern Ireland.
“However, the investment that we want to attract will not just appear of its own volition. We must continue to adopt a proactive approach in selling the benefits that Lisburn has to offer to potential investors.
“We were delighted to meet with senior officials from John Lewis as well as holding discussions with the entire senior management team from INTU. “Both companies reiterated their strong commitment to Sprucefield and expressed a desire to press on with their development plans.”
He continued, “In particular I welcome the very clear message given by the John Lewis Partnership that Sprucefield is the only option they are pursuing in Northern Ireland and on the island of Ireland and the Company are keen to see a further planning application submitted for their Sprucefield store later this year.
He continued, “For their part, INTU also stated that they are now poised to press ahead with plans for a John Lewis store at Sprucefield. The proposal that they intend to put forward to the planners will be significantly different from the previous concept and I believe is much more likely to secure planning approval. INTU have exciting plans for the development of the remainder of Sprucefield Park and they hope to unveil these in the near future.
“As a company, INTU have made clear that they are interested in the development potential of west Lisburn/Blaris and pointed to their flagship development at the Trafford Centre in Manchester as an example of some of the things that could be achieved for Lisburn.
Mr Donaldson continued: “These investments will bring thousands of new jobs to Lisburn, both in the retail and construction sector and generate a marked increase in visitor numbers to the city.
“Given the close proximity of Lisburn city centre to Sprucefield, this offers an opportunity for the city to attract many new shoppers into town. Together with the new facilities being introduced by Historic Royal Palaces at Hillsborough Castle, these developments present a real chance to increase footfall in Lisburn and to aid the regeneration of the City Centre.”