THE Planning Appeals Commission has granted permission for a new retail warehouse unit at Sprucefield but has insisted it is not a precedent for other applications in the area.
The original application by David Prentice Properties, which was submitted in 2003, was for the construction of four retail warehouse units on the site of the former car showroom close to the site of the wireless transmission station. This was rejected by the Planning Service in 2006 and subsequently referred to the PAC.
During the appeal the application was changed from four units to one unit, with the same floor space of just under 35,000 sq ft.
In a decision that will be carefully read to see if it would have an impact on the Westfield John Lewis development on the other side of the Al carriageway at Sprucefield, the PAC made it clear this approval would not have widespread implications for development in the area.
"The appeal site's previously developed status renders it distinguishable from other land within the proposed LC16 designation and approval would therefore not set a widespread precedent for other similar proposals."
The PAC put several conditions on the approval, including the a prohibition on dividing the unit without permission and that the development must begin with five years.
The Commission also detailed the types of goods which can be sold at the site, including DIY materials, garden materials, furniture, carpets and electrical goods, as well as other items determined as falling within the category of "bulky goods".
Stating the reasons for the approval, the Commission said: "While the existing buildings are disused, the appeal site was last used for a form of retailing encompassing a car showroom and petrol filling station. The proposal is for retail warehouse development in close proximity. to existing and approved retail development at Sprucefield. "The proposed development would entail some environmental improvement as it would remove semi-derelict buildings and visually improve a prominent roadside site."
The Commission concluded by stating the development would not be detrimental to trade in the city centre.
"I do not consider that a retail warehouse unit of no more than 3.200m sq net retail floorspace would have a significantly detrimental impact on Lisburn City Centre as a whole in terms of trade diversion."
ENVIRONMENT Minister and Lagan Valley MLA Edwin Poots has welcomed the decision but said it was 'unfortunate' the application had taken so long. "Lisburn Council supported the proposal, referring the initial decision of the Planning Service to refuse to the Planning Management Board. It was with astonishment that those of us who attended a meeting with the management board heard that they intended to continue with the refusal as no plausible grounds were presented to refute the arguments made to allow the development" he said. "We continued to support the application at the appeal hearing which overturned the
previous refusal decision. "Unfortunately excellent marketing conditions for the units have been lost making it more difficult for the development to take place than would have been the case."
Mr Poots said an earlier approval would have created jobs and the additional rates would have been a welcome boost to Lisburn.
"It is regrettable that a business venture that had significant potential was unnecessarily delayed for years with additional expense being placed on both the applicant and public purse only to arrive at the only rational outcome" he added.