Belfast Telegraph

New policies could give John Lewis green light

By Margaret Canning

A firm of planning consultants has said two new planning policies could pave the way for controversial applications to be passed.

The Department of the Environment is holding consultations on two policies, PPS 23 AND PPS 24.

The first relates to enabling development, where a proposal could benefit the public in some way, and the second to economic considerations.

The consultations come as Tesco opened its biggest store in Northern Ireland in a 84,000 sq ft development in Craigavon.

Eamonn Loughrey, a partner in the Belfast office of consultants DPP, said: “If brought into effect, developments not usually granted under current planning policy could get the go- ahead under the criteria of PPS 23 or PPS 24.

“Draft PPS 23 could mean that planning applications for out of town retail, which would normally be turned back on policy grounds, may get the go-ahead because the financial gains will allow other assets, such as sporting facilities or employment uses, to be built or protected which serve the public good.”

He said PPS 24 would enable “determinative weight” to be given to economic considerations.

“That’s not written in any other planning statement I have seen.”

But he said the policy, if adopted, would be a short-term one only. “We will not always be dying on our feet in economic terms.”

Draft policy PPS 24 reads: “Full account shall be taken of the economic implications of a planning proposal, including the wider implications to the regional and local economy, alongside social and environmental aspects.

“Where the economic implications of a proposal are significant, substantial weight shall be afforded to them in the determination of that planning application.”

But Glyn Roberts, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, said it was unlikely a new policy would affect the outcome of applications for large out of town retail centres.

NIIRTA has voiced opposition to a number of large out of town developments.

“Evidence suggests that out of town retail centres result in displacement of jobs and a net loss of jobs.

“I don’t share the view that this will result in out of town retail centres being passed.”

Controversial applications which could be reassessed include building a large John Lewis department store at Sprucefield.

The application was first lodged in 2004 but a public inquiry has been repeatedly delayed.

Belfast Telegraph