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Attwood and Co hammering Northern Ireland plc

After Alex Attwood's announcement that only retailers of bulky goods would be allowed to set up at Sprucefield (and its probable consequences for John Lewis), I'd like to congratulate the Environment Minister and his wonderful Planning Service on hammering another nail into the coffin of Northern Ireland plc.

We have an economy on its knees, an Assembly holding out an ever-growing begging-bowl to Westminster, an exodus of young professionals, sectarian strife publicised throughout the world, and Attwood's department still thinks we can pick and choose what businesses can invest here.

I do not advocate a free-for-all, but when a major retailer of international renown expresses a desire to make a substantial investment in Northern Ireland, we should be bending over backwards to accommodate it.

In 2005, Lord Rooker, then Minister of State at the NIO, granted planning permission for the John Lewis development at Sprucefield, calling it a "no-brainer".

It is a great pity for this country that his successors have lacked his experience, intelligence, vision and objectivity.

Is the Planning Service not aware that most of our population do not live in Belfast? Surely this was the rationale behind the designation of Sprucefield as a regional shopping centre?

We could do a lot more to help ourselves, but until our politicians and planners get real, we are all going down a slippery slope.



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