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First item on environment minister's agenda must be to revisit John Lewis

By Liam Clarke

Published 19/07/2013

Mark H Durkan (left) pictured with Alex Attwood
Mark H Durkan (left) pictured with Alex Attwood

Alex Attwood is a tough act to follow as environment minister. He made a good start on streamlining planning and wasn't afraid to take on vested interests.

His successor, Mark H Durkan, has big boots to fill, but he should think again about the cold shoulder John Lewis got when it proposed locating at Sprucefield.

As a result, the superstore pulled out of a £150m, 1,500-job development.

Mr Attwood wanted the development – including an Irish distribution hub – placed in Belfast's Royal Exchange.

But John Lewis preferred an out-of-town location and faced him down.

The John Lewis development came with 19 other shops and it was argued that retail jobs could be lost elsewhere. That is, basically, a Luddite argument.

John Lewis is a blue-chip employer, which pays far above most others in the retail sector.

It offers big bonuses to staff and is held up as an example of what a good employer should be.

Situated on a motorway hub, it also has the capacity to attract cross-border shoppers – just as it could attract northern shoppers if it set up its Irish base in Dublin.

Mr Attwood tried his best, but, in the end, he couldn't bend the business to his will.

Mr Durkan should revisit this decision again.

Belfast Telegraph

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