John Lewis’ entry into Northern Ireland is to be further delayed because objectors to a ministerial decision paving the way for the department store’s debut are preparing to launch a new legal challenge.
Multi, German open-ended fund manager CGI and House of Fraser will next week ask for a judicial review of a decision taken by Northern Ireland minister David Cairns in March to grant a controversial extension at Westfield’s Sprucefield Shopping Centre.
John Lewis has agreed to anchor the £100m extension to the centre, which lies between Belfast and Lisburn, with a 220,000 sq ft store. There will be an additional 29 shops in the extension.
Multi and CGI are developing the £360m Victoria Square shopping centre in Belfast which opens next March and is anchored by a 200,000 sq ft House of Fraser.
Other objections to the latest decision will be lodged by Lisburn’s Bow Street Mall and the town’s chamber of commerce and Belfast Chamber of Trade and Belfast City Council. Central Craigavon, the owners of Rushmere Shopping Centre, has already lodged its objection with the High Court in Belfast. Ewarts, which is developing the Royal Exchange scheme in Belfast and Newry City Council, which did not originally object to the scheme, are said to be considering their options.
The objectors argue that the decision to grant planning permission goes against all planning advice discouraging out-of-town retail development. They also say there have been procedural failings by Cairns.
Paul Sargent, managing director at Multi, said it was 'lodging its objection on the same basis as the latest decision is just as stupid as before’.