Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

John Lewis revamps its store plans

An artist's impression of the new plan

The wraps are set to be taken off a revised planning application for a £200m development at Sprucefield today — the centrepiece of which will be a John Lewis store.

Joint venture partners Westfield – the owners of CastleCourt – and local company Snoddon Developments are lodging a formal planning application this morning.

The wraps were today taken off a fresh planning application for a £150m development at Sprucefield, the centrepiece of which will be Northern Ireland’s first John Lewis store.

Crucially, the revamped proposals involve a cut from 29 to 19 in the number of ancillary shops in the scheme.

Developers Westfield said they hoped the scaled-down version of the original scheme would overcome objections and win the approval of the planners. They said the scheme would provide employment for 2,000 people — 700 of them at John Lewis — and be a major boost for the Northern Ireland economy.

Westfield, owners of CastleCourt, said the 50,000m sq development would include a “vibrant mix” of fashion, homeware and leisure goods outlets, with cafes and restaurants but added that there would be no supermarket.

Westfield and its joint venture partners Snoddons Construction submitted a formal application to the Planning Service today.

The plans were then unveiled at a Press conference at the offices of Lisburn City Council, and it is expected the next stage will be a public inquiry.

Gareth Thomas, director of retail design and development at John Lewis said they hoped the revised proposals would get the scheme “back on track”.

He said: “Our presence in Northern Ireland will enhance competition, choice and quality for the benefit of local shoppers.

“It represents a £40m investment by John Lewis and is backed by robust research showing Sprucefield to be the only location in Northern Ireland capable of supporting a full range John Lewis department store and from which we can run a long-term, successful and viable business.

“As a business, we look for opportunities to be involved with the communities in which we trade and Sprucefield is no exception.

“We look forward to being part of the overall Sprucefield development, which will deliver landmark, long-term economic investment and job creation for Northern Ireland, and hope that today’s news will help get this valuable project back on track very quickly.”

Steven Hassel, development director at Westfield, said that in framing the new application, the company had responded positively to local feedback about the original scheme, particularly as regards the number of units.

He said the revised proposal represented a 34% reduction on the original number of additional stores and a reconfiguration of the car park.

Mr Hassel added: “This project has been subject to serious delay. It is a scheme of regional significance in Northern Ireland and we believe that a public inquiry should be held as soon as possible so that the community and economy can benefit from the enhanced retail offer provided by the scheme.

“The involvement of John Lewis shows huge confidence in the future of shopping in Northern Ireland.

“Consumers should be encouraged that we continue to receive considerable interest from other leading retailers keen to open at Sprucefield.”

Sam Harris, director of Snoddons Construction, said it was crucial the application was progressed as quickly as possible.

He said the scheme would benefit Lisburn and the whole of Northern Ireland in terms of employment and retail offer.

The original planning application was made four years ago and although it was initially approved by the then minister, Lord Rooker, it was overturned at a judicial review.

Objectors said they were not opposed to a John Lewis store but were against the scale of the development and the large number of additional shops.

The earlier plans were fiercely opposed by traders’ groups in Lisburn, Belfast and Craigavon, who argued their businesses would suffer.

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