Givan: 'Environment minister gerrymandering retail boundaries'

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Lagan Valley DUP MLA Paul Givan said the environment minister was gerrymandering the retail boundaries of Northern Ireland by "putting Belfast first", on 26 February 2013.

Mr Givan tabled an adjournment debate on the John Lewis Sprucefield retail development.

John Lewis withdrew its plans for a department store at Sprucefield, near Lisburn, County Antrim, at the end of January.

It followed a controversial decision to limit further development in the area to "bulky goods", like furniture.

Mr Givan said the opportunity would have brought £150m of investment into Northern Ireland and would have created about 600 construction jobs and 1,500 retail jobs.

He said the minister, Alex Attwood, was "putting Belfast first" and was interfering with the Planning Appeals Commission's decision that a restriction on bulky goods should not be in place.

He added that it was "laughable" that they were continuing to talk about the planning application for the 500,000 sq ft development as it was first made in 2004.

Mr Givan's party colleague, Edwin Poots, said John Lewis had chosen Dublin as its second choice and not Belfast.

"I'm backing Belfast by bringing Sprucefield to within 10 miles of Belfast instead of Dublin," he said.

Sinn Fein's Mitchel McLaughlin said he would give his support to the minister but he also raised concerns with the length of time the application had been in place.

"I wonder what kind of message goes out about this economy when an application can be bobbing about for some years in the system awaiting final decisions," he said.

Mr Attwood said his decisions in relation to this development had been made with the aim of protecting city and town centres.

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