Blow for Lisburn as expansion of city's main shopping hub rejected nine years after plans submitted
A plan for a major revamp of a central Lisburn shopping district has been rejected - nearly 10 years after it was applied for.
The proposed scheme would have seen the redevelopment and expansion of Bow Street Mall.
The plans – first filed in 2005 – proposed a 260,000sq ft department store, an additional 540 car parking spaces and 30 new retail units all integrated into the existing Bow Street Mall, as well as a major new access point for the shopping centre and environmentally-friendly transport initiatives to reduce traffic pressures in the city centre.
A new feeder underpass that would have direct access to the car park at Bow Street was also proposed.
There were also discussions about including residential and leisure facilities in the proposed complex.
Amendments were filed in 2009 and in 2010.
However, yesterday the Planning Service announced it had rejected the plans.
A spokesman for the Department of the Environment said the recommendation to refuse permission was due to the "impact on an adjacent listed building, the character of the area and traffic generation".
The matter will be discussed at a meeting of Lisburn City Council's planning committee next week.
It is understood that while the council cannot approve the planning application without the green light from the Planning Service, it can send it back for reconsideration.
SDLP councillor Pat Catney said he was very angry about the decision, saying that Lisburn was "on its knees". "Personally, I believe that it should be a free market place and that if it meets all the planning criteria then I don't know what the objections are," he said.
"We are talking here about trying to bring new business and jobs into the city centre.
"We need everything that we can get. We have the problem about John Lewis, this is a development right in our centre. We are spending millions as councillors trying to do the area up through the streetscape programme along with the Department for Social Development.
"I can't for the life of me figure out the rationale for recommending to reject this."
Mr Catney said there was a retail problem in Lisburn.
"I was driving through Lisburn city centre last night at 7pm and it was like a ghost town," he said.
"I used to have a pub in Belfast, and even during the worst times of the Troubles you wouldn't have seen it that quiet.
"We need to be trying to get a night-time economy going in Lisburn.
"We are on our knees. It seems to be one step forward and two steps back.
"Lisburn is a good area, some of the shops are doing very well, but there is no night-time economy."
However, Alliance Lagan Valley MLA Trevor Lunn said he felt the planners had "got the decision right".
"It was a very big scheme, they were going to take a big bit out of one of the streets to do it," he explained.
"I think the planners got it right this time."
The shopping centre is owned by Bow Street Mall Ltd, a firm controlled by the property developer Michael Herbert.
2005: Plans first submitted to the Department of the Environment's Planning Service for a redevelopment and extension to the Bow Street Mall shopping centre in Lisburn.
2008: One of those involved with the proposals, Michael Herbert, said that he hoped they would be able to attract Northern Ireland's first John Lewis store to the redeveloped shopping centre.
2009: Amendments made to initial plans. Planning consultant Michael Burroughs then told Lisburn Council's planning committee that despite the current downturn, they were confident everything was in place to make the scheme a success. The city's then deputy mayor Edwin Poots proposed living accommodation could be included in the plans, as well as an 800-seater theatre and restaurants, which would encourage a night-time economy in the city centre.
July 2014: Planning Service announce a recommendation to refuse planning permission for the redevelopment "by reason of their impact on an adjacent listed building, the character of the area and traffic generation".