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Review for Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan

Words: Roger Milne

Enterprise minister Arlene Foster has confirmed that she will seek a judicial review over the approval of the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan (BMAP). The plan was signed off by environment minister Mark H Durkan without the agreement of the full Northern Ireland Executive. 

The issue, which is at the centre of a major political row at Stormont, is the plan’s stance on new retail facilities at out-of-town locations like Lisburn’s Sprucefield development. 

The strategy says new retail stores will only be allowed at such locations if they sell bulky and/or white goods, effectively putting the lid on long-standing and controversial proposals for a John Lewis anchor store at Sprucefield.

Durkan said: "My aim in adopting BMAP was to create certainty in planning for the greater Belfast area in the run-up to the transfer of planning powers to local government in April 2015. 

“By initiating legal action, Arlene Foster will inevitably inject a renewed atmosphere of uncertainty. It is difficult to understand why Arlene Foster, who has responsibility for the economy, would choose to waste public money on legal action on such a narrow political interest at this time, when people across the North are facing cuts in pay, welfare and public services."

Image courtesy of Michael Cooper