Sprucefield faces new legal challenge

Published:  24 April, 2007

Westfield’s plans for a major John Lewis-anchored shopping centre at Sprucefield, south of Belfast city centre, face a new legal challenge. A consortium of property owners and chambers of commerce, headed by Multi Development, developer of the Victoria Square scheme in Belfast city centre, are applying for leave to take the planning decision to judicial review for a second time.

Last year they successfully overturned an earlier planning consent granted by then-Northern Ireland Environment Minister Lord Rooker. Westfield then began the planning process again and on 26 March Lord Rooker’s successor David Cairns granted a new consent for a full-line John Lewis department store, 29 smaller units on two floors, restaurants and a five-level multi-storey car park for 1,250 cars plus surface level parking.

At the time Cairns said: “This is more good news for Northern Ireland following the decision by IKEA to locate here last year. The development will bring considerable economic and social benefits, including 2000 new jobs and increased choice for shoppers in Northern Ireland. It represents £100m worth of new investment.”

Multi Development managing director Paul Sargent said the timing of the decision – only days before the handover to the province’s power-sharing administration - would form a key plank of the appeal. “The planning department again made a recommendation not to approve, on the grounds that the Belfast Metropolitan Action Plan has not yet gone through the inquiry process," he said. "But it was Peter Hain's last chance before handing back the keys to Stormont, and he wanted to add it to the list of jobs created."

Sargent said the challenge was likely to be supported by the Belfast and Lisburn chamvbers of commerce and the owners of the Bow Street Mall in Lisburn.

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