John Lewis's first foray into Republic 'should pave way for Northern Ireland store'
MP hopeful after John Lewis sets up in Dublin
John Lewis's plans for its first Irish store in Dublin will "keep the door open and pave the way" for the retail giant to push ahead with a development at Sprucefield, it has been claimed.
John Lewis is planning to take on concession areas across two floors at Dublin department store Arnotts.
From October, Arnotts will open a John Lewis section, featuring around 2,000 sq ft of retail space, selling 700 products from its own-brand ranges.
The chain has been linked to the Sprucefield site outside Lisburn for many years.
However, the future plans of the area had been limited to just selling bulky goods under the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan (BMAP).
That obstacle was quashed earlier this year, with the High Court ruling that the BMAP plans were unlawfully adopted by the then Environment Minister Mark H Durkan.
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, DUP MP for Lagan Valley, told the Belfast Telegraph John Lewis's plans to open in Dublin could "pave the way" for the go-ahead at Sprucefield.
"John Lewis have made clear their ongoing commitment to Sprucefield, and they recognise that it is a prime location for their first proper store on the island of Ireland," he said.
"I welcome the new announcement that they are going to have a presence in Dublin, keeping the door open for Sprucefield, and showing their interest in coming here is very much alive.
"If we hadn't had the planning restrictions, we might have been first out of the traps."
But he warned that if Sprucefield is "stymied again" there is "always the possibility that John Lewis could open a full store in Dublin".
"That would be really bad news for Northern Ireland to lose out on a massive investment," said Mr Donaldson. In March, Mr Donaldson said he was confident a new planning application for the complex would include the major retailer.
The retailer has also been linked to the proposed Royal Exchange development in Belfast City Centre.
The site was sold to Castebrooke Investments in March, which said it is now "formulating plans for a mixed-use development" and is working with Belfast City Council on the scheme.
John Lewis has been eyeing up the Republic for several years. The chain was also linked to department store Clerys, after it entered receivership.
But it said it has "no current plans" to open up a stand-alone store in Ireland, and has no plans for similar concession-style developments in Northern Ireland.