Sainsbury's chief Justin King warns over 'slow and illogical' planning permission in Northern Ireland
The Executive needs to make the process of setting up business in Northern Ireland easier or risk losing out on investment to other parts of the UK, according to the head of one of the country's biggest supermarket chains.
Sainsbury's chief executive Justin King said a lack of speed, logic and joined up thinking when it comes to issuing planning permission for supermarkets makes Northern Ireland a challenging place to invest.
"The reality is Northern Ireland is in competition with the rest of the UK for the money which supermarkets like us invest in," he said on a visit to Belfast to speak at the NI Food and Drink Association annual dinner.
"Money follows opportunity and there are lots of other places in the UK where it is easier to invest and easier to deliver a return. That's something that has to be investigated."
"We actually don't mind when we get turned down for planning consent but we want the process to be clear, swift and joined up."
The joined up part refers to obtaining other licenses, such as those for selling alcohol or for pharmacies, which a business such as a supermarket needs to operate and which, from Sainsburys experience, haven't been granted in collaboration with planning permission decisions.
"It's the hardest place in the UK to line things up," Mr King said.
He said the company's Bangor store traded for six months from first opening before a liquor license was granted.
"We need the process to be clearer, swifter and joined up and that will help us and others to invest more swiftly in Northern Ireland," he added.