New Sprucefield retail park owners to consider John Lewis plans

John Lewis shop sign The retailer John Lewis withdrew a controversial application to build a store at Sprucefield last year

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Sprucefield retail park near Lisburn is set to change ownership in a £70m deal and its buyers will look again at plans for a John Lewis store.

Built in 2003, it is being sold by the Australian property firm Westfield Group as part of a wider agreement.

The buyers are Intu, a UK company that owns 16 other shopping centres, including the Trafford Centre in Manchester.

Sprucefield comprises five retail units, including B&Q and Sainsburys.

It has a total floor area of 230,000 square feet.

The deal will be completed in the coming weeks.

Westfield had been behind the ill-fated attempt to attract John Lewis.

The proposed development, which included 19 other retail units, was first suggested around a decade ago.

But a planning application was withdrawn last year after a controversial decision by then Environment Minister Alex Attwood to limit further development at Sprucefield to "bulky goods" like furniture.

At the time he said he was committed to putting "Belfast first" in "difficult times".

But Intu will revisit the idea.

Mike Butterworth, its chief operating officer, said: "We appreciate this has been a controversial subject.

"We want to better understand what the issues are and will be talking to planners and local politicians.

"If we can move forward it will mean investment and jobs."

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