Reaction: Lifted restrictions pave the way for John Lewis and other companies

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The removal of a bulky goods restriction placed on Sprucefield is good news for not just John Lewis but other companies, a Lagan Valley MLA has said.

Read: Lifted restriction could see John Lewis finally come to Sprucefield
This restriction, placed under the BMAP, has been a major factor on development of the Sprucefield site, in particular to John Lewis siting a store there.

Jenny Palmer MLA, UUP Spokesperson for Infrastructure said: “I am overjoyed that this senseless restriction has finally been put to bed. If you had told me when I sold my family land in 2004 that we would still be waiting in 2016, I would have not believed it.

“It has been an agonising wait of more than a decade, but finally a massive barrier has been lifted. I look forward to development starting as soon as possible.

“I know that many – including myself – are keen to see a John Lewis store sited at Sprucefield. What is important to remember is that this Bulky Goods restriction being lifted does not only mean good news for John Lewis. It means that other companies many also consider developing there.

“I would welcome a vibrant and competitive development process, to bring as many jobs as possible to the site.”

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson has welcomed today’s High Court ruling on the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan.

He said: “This ruling confirms that the bulky goods restriction which prevented John Lewis from locating at Sprucefield has been removed.

“Those who have given up on the fight to secure this major development are wrong. I will continue to work with the company and the developers as I have done over the last number of years.

“The path is now clear for an application to be lodged and I would hope this can happen as soon as possible.”

However Gordon McElroy, President of Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce believed the decision would be bad for Belfast, he said: “Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce considers that the removal of a bulky goods condition to pave the way for a John Lewis store at Sprucefield near Lisburn, is bad for Northern Ireland and bad for Belfast in particular.

“Belfast is the hub of Northern Ireland, it must be considered first. It must be at the centre and heart of all policies for Northern Ireland. Make Belfast great and the rest of the region will follow.”

Gordon concluded: “The Chamber supports Belfast City Council’s decision to appeal this ruling.”

Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said: “Out-of-town retail development has been a key contributing factor in the decline of our town centres, drawing away trade, resulting in thousands of independent retailers closing and a significant loss of net employment.

“Northern Ireland has the highest level of town centre dereliction and shop vacancies in the UK, which is largely a result of almost unrestricted out-of-town retail development over the past decade.

“If our town and city centres are to have any chance of recovery, the very last thing they need is any more out-of-town retail applications being granted which draw away footfall and trade.

“Our strong preference has always been for John Lewis to locate a store in a town or city centre, rather than at an out of town location.

“Aside from BMAP, the new Strategic Planning Policy Statement has very clear guidelines on a Town Centre First location for large retail stores and it is on that basis any new application at Sprucefield should be assessed”

“It would be a major mistake for the Executive to put aside its policy of town centre first for large retail stores.”