The John Lewis Christmas Ad is cute. Pity NI can’t have the store…

Whilst the rest of the UK is enjoying viewing the latest Christmas advert from the UK up market department store chain, John Lewis we should spare a thought for the Northern Ireland shopper who unless they are ready to travel across the water to England, Scotland or Wales or Visit their concession at Arnott’s in Dublin, will not get to experience what all the fuss is about.

A John Lewis department store was first mooted at the Sprucefield site over ten years ago and looks no closer to receiving planning permission today that it did back then. This planning debacle is a warning to any investor wishing to invest in Northern Ireland as to the red tape and hostility and lobbying that can thwart schemes such as this which would have created hundreds of well paid jobs for local people in the retail sector by one of the UK’s most respected employers.

However, rather than approve their plans for their first Irish Store, the Officers and Councillors of Belfast City Council have decided that rather that listen to John Lewis as to their preferred store format and site location for Northern Ireland, that they know better where they should be located constantly pushing the Royal Exchange Development, a site where John Lewis have repeatedly stated they do not wish be to located to and which Belfast City Council and its promotors keep push time and time again to the point where we have reached a stalemate.

If Northern Ireland wants to show to the rest of the world it is open for business and our politicians really do believe in creating quality jobs for the people they represent, planning permission for this store needs to be approved at the earliest opportunity.

Our politicians would be wise to give John Lewis as one of the UK’s most respected employers the respect they are due by helping them locate their store on the site they wish to be located, rather than the site Council Officers, Councillors and their lobby groups who know very little about the retail business have pre-decided where the John Lewis Should be located.

Over the last week we have read about accusations of Dublin stealing FDI investment from Belfast, yet here we have an example of where we are going out of our way to ensure John Lewis goes to Dublin.

Unless the Northern Ireland politicians and officials start to listen to FDI investors and stop dictating terms to them, Northern Ireland will continue to struggle to attract FDI investment.

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