by JULIE-ANN SPENCE
How the development would look
THE Environment Minister has revealed there is still no date for the public inquiry into the long awaited plan for the John Lewis store at Sprucefield.
In reply to a question from MLA Samuel Gardiner in the Assembly, Alex Attwood said environmental information around the application was submitted in August 2011 and again in February this year.
"The details of the information have been advertised by the Department in accordance with statutory requirements and the information is presently under consideration by the Department" he said.
"Once this stage of the process has been completed, the Department will be writing to the PAC (Planning Appeals Commission) to request a new date for the Inquiry."
The current application for the store and a number of other units was submitted to the DoE in October 2009 and two months later Department asked the PAC to hold a public local inquiry to consider the application.
"However, the convening of the Inquiry has been delayed by a combination of judicial review proceedings and a need to consider further environmental information submitted by the applicant" Mr Attwood said.
In reply to a further question from Mr Gardiner about jobs which would be created, the Minister said the applicant estimates up to 890 jobs will be created during the construction phase of the, development with up to a further 1,616 jobs when it is operational.
Mr Gardiner said the planning delays around the scheme were "ludicrous'.
"Stormont needs to take the planning process by the scruff of the neck and sort it out once and for all" he said. "There has been far too much pussyfooting about this whole process.
What realistic chance have we of attracting jobs to the Province if we have a planning process which is not fit for purpose and a legislative Assembly that will not take decisive action to fast track planning for projects with this level of job creation?"