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Last Updated: Friday, 23 March 2007, 22:02 GMT
Green light for John Lewis store
John Lewis store
John Lewis is to get planning permission to locate at Sprucefield
The government has given the go-ahead for a major John Lewis department store at the Sprucefield site, near Lisburn.

Environment minister David Cairns said the development would "bring considerable economic and social benefits, including 2,000 new jobs".

"This is more good news for Northern Ireland following the decision by IKEA to locate here last year," he added.

A decision by his predecessor Lord Rooker to grant planning permission was overturned by the courts last May.

Traders from Belfast, Lisburn and Craigavon had sought a judicial review of Lord Rooker's decision.

STORE PLANS
John Lewis as anchor tenant in 22,300 square metre complex
Retailing in 29 smaller units on two floors (26,679 square metres)
Restaurants
Five-storey car park for 1,250 cars plus surface-level parking
Businesses expressed concern that the sheer size of the scheme would harm the viability of their shopping areas.

The judge had said he was not ruling on the development's merits but on the way the government's decision was reached in the application.

Mr Cairns said on Friday that the proposed development represented 100m-worth of new investment.

Welcoming the announcement, Ben Jebb of developers Westfield said the construction would take up to two years.

I suspect that those who objected to the previous application will probably again consider their options
Rowan Black
Lisburn businessman
He said they hoped to begin work as soon as possible, but the plans now had to undergo a 12-week formal consultation process.

Local DUP assembly member Edwin Poots welcomed the government's decision.

"Northern Ireland is entering a period where hopefully we'll have political stability, but moving beyond that, we should have significant economic growth," he said.

"We should be attracting people to Northern Ireland instead of driving the retailing sector away and encouraging people to take cheap flights to Scotland and England to go to stores like John Lewis and Ikea."

However, Lisburn businessman Rowan Black said the development would destroy other businesses in the area.

"Our issue is not John Lewis - our issue is the 29 units that go alongside it. It would devastate Newry, Banbridge, Lisburn, part of Belfast and so on.

"I suspect that those who objected to the previous application will probably again consider their options."


SEE ALSO
Plan to protect town centre shops
14 Jul 06 |  Northern Ireland
Minister delays draft retail plan
18 Aug 05 |  Northern Ireland

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