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Is public interest defined as what suits Belfast?

The DSD Principal Information Officer, Michael Henderson, asks us to believe that the appointment of a top London barrister to the John Lewis hearing is to protect the public interest.

He does not say whether the public interest is related to the £110m his department is investing in the proposed Royal Exchange scheme. Representatives of that development have already written to a government department, expressing concerns they hold regarding the impact the John Lewis development may have on that scheme and demanding that Sprucefield be stripped of its regional out-of-town shopping centre status.

John Lewis is already being publicly touted as the anchor tenant for that Belfast scheme.

The truth is that the expansion of the retail sector in Belfast has outstripped what its population and its gridlocked streets can sustain and its traders are now demanding that any competition from neighbouring towns be thwarted. Is the public interest to be defined as what best suits Belfast alone?

The case for a public enquiry is compelling and the Secretary of State should announce one immediately if investors are to have any confidence in the ability of this Assembly to rebuild our economy.

Cllr Ronnie Crawford

Ulster Unionist

Lisburn City Council

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