Belfast Telegraph

Warning over retail developments

Northern Ireland jobseekers are being denied employment opportunities because of judicial challenges to retail development, the environment minister has said.

The House of Fraser is among those criticising plans to extend the Sprucefield shopping complex near Lisburn to include rival department store John Lewis.

Opponents of the proposed expansion won the right in June to mount a new legal challenge to it. A public inquiry has been delayed for some time.

Minister Edwin Poots told a retailers' conference in Belfast of his concerns.

"That inquiry has been delayed by commercial interests, some of which are with us today," he said.

"A series of applications have been delayed ensuring that the Northern Ireland public, your customers, are being denied job opportunities."

The keynote speaker at the conference was House of Fraser chief executive John King.

It is understood a fresh judicial review on John Lewis will be sought on Friday. A Planning Appeal Commission hearing into the decision opens next Tuesday and the Department of Environment will be arguing that the judicial review process should not hold up the appeal.

The owners of Sprucefield have been trying to get approval for the store since 2004.

But traders from rival retail hubs Bow Street Mall and Central Craigavon Ltd launched proceedings against how environmental issues were dealt with.

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