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John Lewis actions protect public interest alone

Published 15/10/2012

I am writing to respond to Councillor Ronnie Crawford (Write Back, October 11).

Councillor Crawford poses several questions about the Department for Social Development's (DSD) role in relation to the Planning Appeals Commission's public inquiry into the Sprucefield application, which includes a proposal for a John Lewis store.

DSD is keen to encourage private-sector investment. We have been asked by the Planning Appeals Commission to attend this public inquiry.

The department is being advised by legal counsel on its preparation for attending the inquiry, as this is standard process.

Councillor Crawford has stated that Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland "... has yet to tell us whose interests the DSD are representing. Is it the private developers of Royal Exchange, or other Belfast trade interests?"

The department wishes to make clear that the only interest it represents is the public interest.

Mr Crawford's view that "once again, the people of Lisburn see an Assembly protecting Belfast's interests above all else" is not borne out by the evidence of DSD regeneration policy.

Since his appointment, Mr McCausland has launched 14 regeneration masterplans, from Newry to Ballymoney and Enniskillen to Bangor. In September 2011, he launched a £4m investment with Lisburn City Council to regenerate the main city centre.

MICHAEL HENDERSON

Principal information officer

Department for Social Development

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