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Retailer's heart set on Sprucefield despite objections

By Margaret Canning

John Lewis's heart remains firmly set on a Sprucefield department store despite plans to open smaller shops across Britain.

The company said yesterday that it had identified 10 areas of the UK suitable for the new type of store - smaller than its major department stores, but larger than its "at home" stores - which had not been deemed suitable for a large, traditional branch.

"We would not consider introducing a new smaller shop format into a region where we are not already operating our established John Lewis model," the company said in a statement released to the Belfast Telegraph.

"We remain convinced that Sprucefield is the only location capable of supporting a full line John Lewis department store in Northern Ireland, offering us the opportunity to run a long-term and viable business.

"This commitment is as firm now as it was seven years ago.

"It also remains our position that entry into a new region, such as Northern Ireland, will only be through the opening of a full-line department store."

John Lewis applied for planning permission to build a store at Sprucefield in 2004 but has yet to receive a definitive answer as a result of objections from traders in both Belfast and Lisburn.

Retailers expressed concern that the sheer size of the scheme would harm the viability of their shopping areas.

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