Page last updated at 16:05 GMT, Thursday, 22 October 2009 17:05 UK

John Lewis planning inquiry doubt

John Lewis
A major John Lewis outlet is planned for the new development

A public inquiry into a controversial retail development at Sprucefield in Lisburn could be in doubt.

The long-awaited inquiry was due to begin next month but the BBC can reveal that a potential problem has emerged in relation to the planning application.

The development, including a major John Lewis outlet, has been the subject of planning debate for five years.

It's now emerged that the developer may have taken too long to provide a key environmental document to planners.

A John lewis spokeswoman said: "The issue had been brought to our attention by Westfield, the developers of the Sprucefield scheme.

"We understand they are currently working with the Planning Service to resolve the matter.

"For our part John Lewis remains fully committed to opening a full-line department store at Sprucefield and we await the outcome of the planning process."

The current planning application was made a year ago.

Regulations state that the developer should have provided an environmental impact statement within three months unless otherwise agreed.

The applicants took 10 months and to date the Planning Service has not provided evidence a delay was requested or agreed.

If they cannot do so by tomorrow afternoon, the planning application could be refused, placing a question mark over the public inquiry.

The Planning Service has taken legal advice on the matter, with the situation likely to become clearer in the days ahead.

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