Posted on Monday 9 April 2018 by John Mulgrew
Fresh early plans are now under way to develop the Sprucefield site outside Lisburn which could attract long-awaited retail giant John Lewis, Ulster Business can reveal.
The site has long been linked to John Lewis, but has undergone years of hold-ups and legal challenges.
But it's now understood that an early pre-application discussion (PAD) has taken place between planners and Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council ahead of a full planning application for an ambitious mixed-use scheme.
It's understood early discussions first took place late last year.
The scheme has been mired in a range of issues for more than a decade.
That included a legal challenge and issues around developing such large-scale out-of-town parks instead of drawing footfall to urban areas.
The latest incarnation of the proposed scheme was also briefly raised during a pre-determination hearing for the first phase of the £400m Royal Exchange development in Belfast city centre.
During the meeting, one planning consultant said that the Sprucefield site was the “subject of a new application... currently in the PAD process”.
He described Royal Exchange as Belfast's defence against Sprucefield.
A spokesman for owners Intu, told Ulster Business: “We can confirm that we are looking at options to improve Sprucefield Park.
“Our focus is on creating an improved retail location, creating new jobs whilst helping to support the local economy. We will provide further details when we are able.”
A spokeswoman for Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council said it is “unable to comment” on the inquiry “due to the required confidentiality of documentation”.
Asked about the plans, John Lewis said it doesn't comment on speculation.
Meanwhile, the first phase for the Royal Exchange scheme has been given the green light by Belfast City Council's planning committee.
And a high-profile retailer is poised to take on a six-storey retail site as part of the plans, it's been claimed.
But campaigners against it say proposals for Royal Exchange would put the city's historical buildings "under threat" and move away from its long-term vision.
Royal Exchange's first phase was given approval in March, after it was deferred so committee members could visit the site.
All aspects of the application, aside from one dealing with a boundary wall, were approved.
The entire plans include a number of retail developments, offices, hotel and landscaping, along with the demolition of seven existing premises and the restoration of listed buildings.
A hearing in February centred around the first full planning application to be lodged. It involves building a six-storey development and creating a mixed use site with retail units, restaurants and cafes, residential units, offices, church and related community floor space, new streets and public realm works.
The work involves knocking down two buildings, 53 Royal Avenue and 27 to 31 Rosemary Street, as well as the "restoration" of two listed buildings, including Central Halls and Masonic Hall on Rosemary Street.