Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Treatment of John Lewis plan 'a disgrace'

John Banner (Write Back, October 9) is right to question the potential problems faced by investors like him who seek to create jobs in Northern Ireland.

It is almost 10 years since John Lewis sought to build their store, with it 800 jobs at Sprucefield without any public money.

Lisburn City Council and political representatives have fully supported the planning application, which has been hugely delayed by competitors and Belfast retail trade interests.

Government departments have shown little urgency and Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland, whose department is investing £110m in the Royal Exchange development in Belfast, has appointed a London barrister to represent DSD at the John Lewis hearings.

He has yet to tell us whose interests the DSD are representing. Is it the private developers of Royal Exchange, or other Belfast trade interests?

Since the legal representation appointed by the DSD is likely to cost tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money, people have a right to know why this money is being spent. Belfast has made no secret of its desire to capture John Lewis for itself and, once again, the people of Lisburn see an Assembly obsessed with protecting Belfast's interests above all else.

Surely the Secretary of State should order a public inquiry into the disgraceful manner in which this John Lewis planning application has been treated?

CLLR RONNIE CRAWFORD (UUP)

Lisburn City Council

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