A no brainer

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The BBC report from Belfast High Court that Mr Justice Girvan has upheld the legal challenge to the decision to grant planning permission for a John Lewis store at Sprucefield – a £40m development proposal. According to the report the challenge succeeded on the basis of the way the decision was taken. Conveniently the man responsible for that decision, Lord Rooker, is no longer here to give his reaction.

  • Crataegus

    Good decision and one of Rooker’s follies has been reversed.

    Hopefully we now enter a period where planning policy is adopted after due process of consultation. There are many decisions based on policy that has not been properly adopted which are open to challenge. It is a potentially an utter mess.

    Related to this is the comments by retailers that the Planning Service needs to be more responsive and speed up the time it takes to process retail applications, quoting a period of 2 years as typical. Could I add that I totally agree. The Service is so inefficient that we cannot afford the brake it puts on the economy. Also it is not just retail, it is ALL applications, and in particular commercial applications. Someone needs to sort this mess out, it is causing investment to move elsewhere.

  • smcgiff

    Pity, ’cause there looks like a couple of locations have come up that could be used…

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/northern_ireland/4757863.stm

  • Bob Wilson

    Looks my speculation on why Rooker was going on previous thread might be correct!
    Just to be clear on the Sprucefield site. If John Lewis had pressed ahead with a stand alone store it could have been built by now. It was there decision to go along with the developers desire for an out of town Mall that rode a coach and horses through planning guideance.
    Why was No Brainer Rooker so keen to try to push this through – call me suspicious but I am.

  • Crataegus

    Bob

    You are not the only one who is pondering.

    It is also interesting to note the millions that Lord Sainsbury donates to, the Labour Party.

    Out of town shopping centres and we wonder why town centres die.

  • Markkus

    > Good decision and one of Rooker’s follies has been reversed.

    Good decision? Hmmm. They’re threatening to go South now, lower corporation tax rates being an obvious attraction. When a major retailer is trying to establish a base in NI, despite the higher tax rates, shooting them down may not be a good decision. One store at Sprucefield might have led to more JL and Waitrose stores elsewhere. If they do start up in Ireland instead, some people in the North are going to look very foolish. I just hope that this decision was not driven by a bunch of Lisburn tinpot shopkeepers who don’t want to compete in the real world.

    Regards

  • http://jopoliticsnsociety.blogspot.com/ Jo

    Good decision?

    Hundreds of potential jobs lost.

    Major retailer will go to Dundalk.

    Lisburn town centre remains completely crap.

    Major never knowingly undersold retailer stays away leaving us at the mercy of local cartel pricing.

    What does Jeffrey think now?

  • bob Wilson

    Jo and Markkus
    I repeat the store could have been built by now if John Lewis had not been so badly advised and allow themselves to be used by the developer.
    They can still get planning permission within a very short time if they tell the developer to ditch the Mall.
    I told their previous pa/pr advisors this 2 years ago!

  • qubol

    No retailer should be allowed to dictate planning policy, let them go to Dundalk. The short term gains presented by John Lewis at Sprucefield will be at the expense of our town centres – Lisburn and Belfast. A development such as this would only undermine a lot of the work put in trying to re-generate Belfast City centre over the last 15 years. Look at Dublin and look at how much damage Dundrum has done to city centre retailers there. It would be a disgrace to do the same to Belfast. Its just a pity the courts left open the possiblility of a new planning application.

  • Newton Emerson

    I’ve been following this story for a while and digging around for some hint of corruption – but believe it or not, the whole thing looks clean (if spectacularly incompetent). John Lewis is run as a ‘partnership’ with its 64,000 staff – essentially, it is a glorified worker’s co-op. It has a policy of making no political donations and has never given any money to the Labour Party. The Sainsbury’s connection is a red herring; there is already a Sainsbury’s at Sprucefield, any further development will only benefit it slightly and may even compete with it disastrously, plus the only reason Lord Rooker was given responsibility for retail planning in the first place is because Shaun Woodward’s wife is heiress to the Sainsbury’s fortune – so this was already an issue on which the NIO knew it was being closely watched.

    As for His Lordship’s sudden disappearance – the timing certainly looks suspicious but in fact it is due to Baroness Ashton’s embarrassing refusal to accept two portfolios. It seems very unlikely that Tony Blair would humiliate Peter Hain, let alone make himself, merely to shunt an NIO minister sideways on the back of a regional planning case.

    So the golden rule still stands, I’m afraid. If it’s a straight choice between a conspiracy or a cock-up, it’s always a cock-up. Even here.

  • smcgiff

    ‘John Lewis is run as a ‘partnership’ with its 64,000 staff – essentially, it is a glorified worker’s co-op.’

    Correct – I worked in Peter Jones (part of JL) one summer long long ago. They even have their own mini parliament type thingy mabob.

  • Crataegus

    It is important not to be intimidated by retailers or developers but equally you need planning policy that is clear, efficient and fair to all.

    As for John Lewis heading south, if that’s what they wanted to do they would already be there.

    Bob Wilson is correct. The delay, complications and ramifications are a lot more complex than fleeting instinct may lead one to believe. Precedent is important.

  • brendan,belfast

    Let them go south and try and dictate planning policy down there. as for Brian Heading’s 1,000 jobs – who was going to be recruited to work there? are there 1,000 unemployed people in Lisburn desperately looking for work in retail? i don’t think so.

    Operate within our planning laws or sling your hook.

  • Crataegus

    Pete

    Thanks

  • Peter

    I don’t think my life is worth living now that John Lewis can’t open their store. I had thousands in the bank just waiting to be spent at John Lewis and now I’m to be frustrated. I just can’t find their products anyhere else. How dare these retailers deny John Lewis the right to build a mega store and big carpark. Now it looks like all John Lewis’ efforts to find a lovely green field site are to be foiled. Damn them all.

  • Philip McNeill

    I find it interesting that on the BBC Web (see above for link) that ” [the] Belfast City Council said it welcomed the decision and was keen to meet John Lewis to discuss alternative sites for its store.” (Italics added by author)So perish the thought but maybe the review had no basis in law but more to do with greed.

  • Elvis parker

    ‘Let them go south and try and dictate planning policy down there’
    Well hey IKEA manged it!

  • Crataegus

    Philip

    Under Lord Rooker the Planning Service has increasingly become an organisation that has ignored due process in developing policy, and indeed there is considerable policy being implemented that in still in theory at the consulting stage. Now if you proceed in this sort of manner you are leaving yourself wide open not just to judicial review but accusations of all sorts of dealings.

    With regards Belfast, pure opportunism but there is a planning argument with regards out of town as opposed to city centre redevelopment. I personally believe we should have no more motorway and ring road retail development, the advantages are less than the disadvantages.

  • http://jopoliticsnsociety.blogspot.com/ Jo

    qubol,

    what a spectacular lack of understanding!

    “No retailer should be allowed to dictate planning policy, let them go to Dundalk.”

    Well, its clear you have the interests of the region at heart, then?

    “The short term gains presented by John Lewis at Sprucefield will be at the expense of…Lisburn and Belfast.”

    er..Sprucefield is a major out of town shopping area ALREADY? Haven’t you been there?

    “A development such as this would only undermine a lot of the work put in trying to re-generate Belfast City centre”

    er..2 major shopping centres in BCC already being built or underway?

    I sense your post and others here are more a reflex reaction to a DR Minister decision than anything else.

  • Crataegus

    Jo

    I sense your post and others here are more a reflex reaction to a DR Minister decision than anything else.

    No Jo its all about having a Planning Service that has rules and procedures, a service that is open, fair and accountable. It is about having the wit not to be intimidated by developers and their threats. It is about understanding that there is no such thing as retail led growth. If I buy my groceries in Tesco today, and tomorrow another store opens and I shop there what is the gain? All retail development has a down side. We as a society have to take an over view of where we want to go 10 – 20 years on.

    There are issues of sustainability, coherent future transport policies and the regeneration of inner cities and towns. We need clear policy not planning by Ministerial decree, it really is a no brainer.

  • qubol

    Jo: “I sense your post and others here are more a reflex reaction to a DR Minister”
    absolutely not – I’m on record here supporting his stance on rural planning restrictions. My objections to the Sprucefield debate centre around the out of town commercial development and its impact on town/city centres.

    Jo: “Well, its clear you have the interests of the region at heart, then?”
    From what I heard on the radio yesterday, John Lewis stated some time ago that they are opening in the south anyway making there ‘threat’ useless. I do have the interests of the region at heart, thats why I’m with our planners and city centre retailers who believe that this development not only runs contrary to BMAP but will threaten established jobs in the city centre. We only have to look to Ballymena where the Junction One out of town development in Antrim has caused a down turn in business.

    Jo: “2 major shopping centres in BCC already being built or underway?”
    exactly – I want these plans to succeed. Huge efforts have gone in to reinvigorating Belfast City Centre and this development could see these current developments in Belfast City Centre become white elephants we can’t allow that to happen. Many people complain about Belfast’s greed – but that’s nonsense. Its important for the whole region that Belfast succeeds and the centralization of retailing in the centre provides better access for the majority of the population. At a time when we should be trying to cut carbon emissions and develop our Public Transport network centralizing retail development allows for better and more efficient public transport. Furthermore, your claim that the development would offer more competition for established retailers is unlikely. For a start John Lewis’s big pull isn’t because of their pricing – they may have sales but it’s not like they are super-competive. Also the other 29 stores proposed will only end up being the same tired old line up of shops already available in high streets across the land.

  • http://jopoliticsnsociety.blogspot.com/ Jo

    I see no-one disagreeng that Lisburn centre is crap though? lol

    ..and what about “The Outlet” just a few miles from Sprucefield….greenfield site…not a whisper about that one? Are we all being subjected to a conjuring trick here?

  • BogExile

    AN ODE TO LISBURN CITY CENTRE

    Spieds, spieds, gloryless spides,
    Nothing about them in good tourist guides
    Drive into the Lagan
    In your passion wagon
    And there you will wallow
    With gloooryless spides

  • Crataegus

    Uqbol

    The Sprucefield decision was wrong, the rural housing decision is wrong and the decision to implement the Belfast Metropolitan Plan whilst still in consultation was also wrong.

    It is not about the validity of the decisions but the way you conduct and formulate planning policy.

    People make long term investments in land and property based on current adopted policy. You can’t have maverick Ministers and Departments randomly changing the rules. If the rules are changed in the normal manner, through due process, fair enough, as everyone has had an opportunity to voice opinion and has a fair idea what the future holds. But sudden and random decisions can bankrupt third parties or leave the Minister or Civil Servants open to all sorts of accusations.