Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan 2015: Release of Retailing Decisions
Published on Fri, 11 Jan 2013
BMAP - Minister Announces Decisions on Retailing
Environment Minister Alex Attwood announced today that he was making known his decisions on retailing matters with regard to the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan (BMAP).
The BMAP Retail Strategy means that any retail planning applications must be judged against:
- promotion of Belfast City Centre as the leading shopping centre in the BMAP Area and Northern Ireland;
- promotion of Lisburn City Centre and the Town Centres of Bangor, Carrickfergus, Ballyclare, Carryduff, Holywood as the main focus for additional retail capacity;
- expansion of Sprucefield Regional Shopping Centre for bulky goods only e.g. large items such as furniture , electrical goods and similar bulky goods
The Department of Environment is working towards adoption of the BMAP Plan by the end of March this year. However because of the imminence of the Article 31 Public Inquiry into a major planning application at Sprucefield by the Planning Appeals Commission,(PAC) the Minister wishes to assist the PAC and all parties to the inquiry, by releasing the Department’s decisions on those parts of BMAP relevant to the planning application in advance of the final adoption of BMAP.
Alex Attwood said: “I am strongly committed to putting Belfast first in these difficult times. This is consistent with the revised Regional Development Strategy 2035 which aims to strengthen Belfast as the regional economic driver and the primary retail location in Northern Ireland. My decision today will support that as evidence indicates a high vacancy rate. I intend to take a precautionary approach to retailing.”
“I also want to see Lisburn City Centre and other town centres in the metropolitan area taking additional retail floorspace. Sprucefield will play a key role as a regional centre which will complement rather than compete with Belfast and existing city and town centres. That is why I have decided to restrict future retail development at Sprucefield to bulky goods only.
“I am giving advance notice of what my Department intends to adopt in relation to the retailing issues, subject to completion of all necessary statutory processes purely to assist the Inquiry. In publishing part of the Plan now, I want to stress that I am not reopening the debate on any policy issues. I also wish to emphasise that I am not attempting to prejudice the outcome of the Public Inquiry into the Sprucefield planning application which is due to open on 15th April. That planning application remains to be considered carefully following the PAC Inquiry Report. All the relevant issues within the Public Inquiry Report will be interrogated carefully before a final Ministerial decision is made.
“I believe that the decisions I have taken today are the right ones at this time and follow on from my recent deliberations on a number of major retailing planning applications. In the light of recent evidence, including a number of retail studies, I am clear that it is right to put Belfast first and protect the vitality and viability of existing city and town centres.”
Notes for Editors
These sections of the Plan and the associated document setting out the Department’s decisions will be published on www.planningni.gov.uk today, Friday 11January2013. Copies are also available on request from the Belfast Area Planning Office.
Statutory procedures still to be concluded include carrying out an assessment as to general conformity with the RDS, completion of a Habitats Regulations Assessment and an Equality Impact Assessment.