Belfast Telegraph

Mark H Durkan: I'll defend my planning blueprint decision for Belfast

By Claire Williamson

The Environment Minister has said he would "robustly defend" his decision to adopt the long-delayed planning blueprint for Greater Belfast if there was a legal challenge.

But Mark H Durkan was told by NI21 MLA Basil McCrea that he "will go down in history as the man who stopped John Lewis once and for all".

Last week the SDLP minister said he had given his final approval to the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan (BMAP) which identifies zones for future commercial, retail or residential development.

However, some of his Executive colleagues are deeply unhappy with how Sprucefield near Lisburn has been classified.

The BMAP treatment of Sprucefield limits future expansion to "bulky goods" only – meaning a proposed John Lewis shop could not be built there.

The DUP, which has backed the John Lewis development, said the long-term decision on BMAP should have been taken collectively by the Executive, as it is a matter that cuts across several departments.

But Mr Durkan said he had approved the plan, which affects almost 40% of the Northern Ireland population, without the agreement of all his ministerial colleagues.

Yesterday, the DUP's Paul Givan asked Mr Durkan: "Will the new councils, including Lisburn, have the power, through their new area plans, to deal with the cavalier approach taken by the Minister, or will it have to be left to the courts to put right the breach of the ministerial code that Minister Durkan has embarked on?"

Mr Durkan said: "As I outlined in earlier answers, I clearly believe that there has been no breach of the ministerial code on the matter.

"Should there be a legal challenge, I firmly believe that the Department will be able to robustly defend my decision to adopt BMAP."

As well as Belfast the plan covers outlying areas such as Carrickfergus, Lisburn, Newtownabbey and North Down.

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