Sprucefield Park plans a step backward: Retail NI
A proposal to invest £50m in adding 13 shops and a hotel to Sprucefield Park outside Lisburn "belongs in the last century," it's been claimed.
Shopping centre Intu announced it was in talks with "quality retailers" to add new units at its retail park outside the city. The development is already home to retail giants including Sainsbury's and Next Home. The site had formerly been linked to a John Lewis department store - but the company has said it has no plans to open in Northern Ireland.
Glyn Roberts, head of Retail NI, which represents independent retailers, said Intu's focus on out-of-town retail was out-of-date.
"As an organisation which campaigns for a town centre first retail planning policy, our preference is for these 13 new retail units to be located in Lisburn city centre, rather than in an out-of-town location," he said.
He added the proposals would draw trade and jobs away from Lisburn centre and contravened planning regulations which promote a 'town centre first' policy.
"Out-of-town retail belongs in the last century. The future is 21st century town and city centres that have a dynamic mix of retail and hospitality," he said.
"Thirteen new retailers located in Lisburn city centre would be a big boost for existing traders, increase footfall and greatly improve Lisburn's retail offer."
And he claimed John Lewis was itself abandoning traditional stores and increasing its web sales.
"It is not a surprise that John Lewis is not part of this application given that they have changed store formats and moved to having a greater on-line presence," he added.
"I hope that we will see a John Lewis store coming to Northern Ireland in a town or city centre location in the near future"
Intu said its plans would bring more than 200 construction jobs and more than 300 retail jobs.
Martin Breeden, development director at Intu, said: "We want to transform Sprucefield Park into an exciting place to shop, eat and relax to complement Lisburn's city centre offering. Our plans will deliver 13 retail units for the site, the largest of which will be 6,412sq m over two levels. We are talking to a number of quality retailers but John Lewis is not currently one of those."
But he would not give any details about the identity of the proposed retailers.