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Thu 24th February
He said: “There is a lot of propaganda and spin around both sides of this issue and it has become a bit of a vanity project for some politicians, but we need to tell local people the real facts. Everyone is in favour of the John Lewis store itself because it has real potential to pull in new shoppers from across the border, even in a recession.
“But that is only half the question. This development application is not about one big store, it is about a whole new retail park development with up to 30 other stores. In fact, John Lewis would only occupy less than half of the proposed half a million square feet of floor space in the plans.
“Everyone needs to be very clear that unlike John Lewis, all these small and medium-sized stores, which will probably be multiple chain outlets, will not have the pulling power to attract shoppers from a hundred miles away. Their target will be much closer, a couple of miles away on the main streets of Lisburn City.
“There is a lot of loose talk about retail-led development which needs to be challenged with facts. The fact is that apart from top-of-the-range branded stores, a lot of retail development creates little or no jobs, it merely displaces jobs from one place to another. Often it displaces from family-owned businesses which have served an area through good times and bad – and in Lisburn they have known very bad times – into multiple chain stores with no real stake in the local community or roots in the local economy.
“Lisburn Centre is vulnerable – the closure of TK Maxx later this year will reduce footfall. Good planning must protect our town centres and help them to thrive as the vibrant heart of a whole community – bad planning leads to ‘doughnut development’ with out-of-town shops only accessible by car and an empty centre with no community focus.
“Good planning would allow us to have John Lewis and keep our city centre too. The sensible way forward is to support the John Lewis proposal which should be able to make its own business case and stand on its own, but reject multiple chain store development which has the potential to devastate trading and jobs in the heart of our city.”
Tel 02890 247700
Tel 028 90 52 1837