Belfast Telegraph

DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson 'confident' John Lewis will come to Northern Ireland

By Noel McAdam

Efforts are under way to revive the John Lewis project at Sprucefield near Lisburn - even though the company says it has "no current plans" to come to Northern Ireland.

Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson said he was confident a new planning application for the complex will include the major retailer.

The company yesterday held out the prospect of reversing its current plans by saying it will "monitor developments" in the Assembly's policies.

A statement from John Lewis made clear: "We do not have any current plans to open a shop in the province."

A spokeperson added: "We will continue to monitor developments in the evolution of the Assembly's policies."

A High Court verdict against Environment Minister Mark H Durkan last week appears to clear the way for a reconsideration of the John Lewis blueprint, which has already been delayed by more than 10 years.

Mr Durkan's department has attempted to persuade John Lewis to join the Royal Exchange scheme in central Belfast, but the company insists that is not a "viable opportunity".

A study commissioned by the DoE warned siting John Lewis at Sprucefield would cost already hard-hit Belfast city centre traders an estimated £70m in lost revenue.

Mr Durkan is considering a possible appeal against last week's verdict that he had no legal power to approve a planning framework for the greater Belfast area without the agreement of other Executive ministers.

A spokesman for Mr Durkan said: "The minister is currently considering the judgment of the Court."

Mr Donaldson, who has held meetings with the owners of the retail park, Intu, as well as the management of John Lewis, has already said a new planning application will be significantly different with "a much better prospect" of being approved.

It is understood the new plan will exclude the previous proposal for 19 additional shops, but could include a new hotel.

Belfast Telegraph