THE developers behind the plan for a major expansion of Bow Street Mall have defied the economic gloom by claiming the timing of the scheme will be perfect to 'catch the wave out of recession into prosperity'.
Planning consultant Michael Burroughs told Lisburn Council's planning committee that despite the current downturn they were confident everything was in place to make the scheme a success.
And the Mall has also pledged to take on board suggestions by Lisburn's Deputy Mayor, Alderman Edwin Poots, that they should consider including residential and leisure facilities in the plans.
The extension, if it gets the go ahead, would see a 260,000 sq ft department store, an additional 540 car parking spaces and 30 new retail units all integrated into the existing Bow Street Mall.
Also proposed is a major new access point for the shopping centre and environmentally-friendly transport initiatives are included to reduce traffic pressures on Antrim Street and elsewhere in the vicinity of the city centre. This will include a new feeder underpass that will have direct access to the car park at Bow Street.
Mr Poots also proposed living accommodation could be included, as well as an 800-seater theatre and restaurants, which would encourage a night-time economy in the city centre.
Presenting the extension plans at this months meeting of the Council's Planning Committee, Mr Burroughs said with an expected completion date for the 389,000 sq foot extension in around four years time, the new Mall would be in time for expected economic growth.
The timing is deliberate to catch the wave out of recession into prosperity," said Mr Burroughs. "There is no better time for a big retail scheme than right now."
Mr Burroughs, who has been involved in a number of major planning applications such as Liverpool One, Erneside and the expansion of Ards shopping centre, also said he had rarely come across an application with so many "planning policy plus points."
Mr Paul McErlean, Managing Director of MCE Public Relations, who was presenting the plans to the council, said the new Mall, once complete, would compare favourably to, if not better, what is on offer in Belfast.
Mr McErlean also said he was confident the development, which would run along Antrim Street and Bow Street to the corner of the pedestrian precinct, would be delivered.
"We wouldn't be making these proposals if we didn't think in the fullness of time it would be a perfectly viable proposition," said Mr McErlean.
THE plans for the extension of the Bow Street Mall which include a 260,000 so ft department store, received a cautious welcome from Lisburn councillors during a meeting of the Planning Committee on Monday evening.
Committee chairman Councillor Bill Gardiner-Watson questioned whether the Mall had control over the entire area it wished to develop and whether they had secured an anchor tenant. Mr Paul McErlean, Managing Director of MCE Public Relations, said negotiations were ongoing on both matters and would be resolved in the fullness of time.
The Mayor, Councillor Ronnie Crawford, said he welcomed the multi-million pound investment in the centre of Lisburn but expressed concern about the design of the extension, saying there was "very little architectural merit in the new plans." However, Mr Crawford also praised the new Thiepval Road underpass, which has been included in the scheme.
"The traffic scheme seems a remarkably good way to solve problems which may arise," he said.
Mr Crawford added: "I welcome the fact that these plans are being put forward at a time which is so difficulty for the retail sector. It would be a great boost for the centre of Lisburn." Councillor Jonathan Craig, referring to the plans as "interesting", questioned whether part of the land at Tonagh Primary School would be needed to enable the Thiepval Road underpass to be constructed. Mr McErlean confirmed a "small strip" of land would be required from the school property but added that most of the land on which the underpass would be built is in DRD ownership. Councillor Peter O'Hagan expressed concern that the new development would draw more people away from the centre of the city. "The Bow Street Mall has been a successful retail centre," he said, "but the downside is that it has taken footfall away from the centre of Lisburn, which I see as Market Square."
The creation of around 1000 new jobs in the new extension was welcomed by Councillor Andrew Ewing and Alderman Jeffrey Donaldson welcomed development in the city centre. "We need to make Lisburn City Centre an even more attractive draw for shoppers," said Mr Donaldson.
At the end of the discussion on the Mall development Alderman Jim Dillon added: "I welcome any entrepreneur, developer or company who wants to develop in our city centre and create jobs for our residents."