Northern Ireland

John Lewis: New planning application for store will exclude plans for 19 other shops, MP says

John Lewis Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The retailer John Lewis withdrew a controversial application to build a store at Sprucefield in 2013

A new planning application for a John Lewis department store at Sprucefield, County Down, will exclude plans for 19 other shops, according to Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson.

Mr Donaldson will meet the site's owners INTU later this week.

He says the new application could include a hotel along with the department store.

The additional shops were one of the controversial aspects of the former planning application.

It was withdrawn in 2013.

Mr Donaldson says the new application will be made later this year.

Last week, the High Court ruled that Environment Minister Mark Durkan had no legal power to approve a new planning blueprint for Greater Belfast without consent from his Executive colleagues.

Mr Donaldson said the ruling paved the way forward for fresh proposals for John Lewis.

By Julian O'Neill, BBC News NI Business Correspondent

One of the contentious aspects of BMAP (the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan) restricted the future expansion of Sprucefield to bulky goods only.

That appeared to be a major obstacle to a retail type store such as John Lewis. But, with the High Court having ruled on Friday that BMAP was unlawfully adopted by Mark Durkan, an obstacle appears to have been removed and a new planning application is probable.

This has been going on for more than 10 years. It has not really been about a John Lewis store per se, but additional new retail units going in alongside it.

Back in 2009, we were talking about 19 other units, before then it had been even more than that.

The fear and the source of much of the objection historically was that such a retail development would wreck town centre business in places like Lisburn.

So it became an argument about out of town shopping centres, with Belfast and Banbridge all weighing in to object when the issue was raised at a planning inquiry.

"The owner of Sprucefield Parks has been waiting for this moment when the High Court would rule on this application by First Minister Arlene Foster," Mr Donaldson told BBC Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster on Monday.

"Arlene [Foster] has been successful in her application to have the decision of the environment minister ruled unlawful. I believe that will pave the way for this process to move forward.

Image caption Environment Minister Mark Durkan was accused of implementing a planning policy without authority

"I will be meeting with the development team in London this week to discuss the next steps and I believe we will see a planning application coming forward in the near future.

"I am confident that will include a proposal for a John Lewis store at Sprucefield."

More on this story