Sprucefield is a major out-of-town retail park at Blaris, on the outskirts of
Lisburnand ten miles from Belfast, Northern Ireland. The centre is the only purpose-built out of town centre in Northern Ireland and serves a large catchment area. The area has two distinct developments, the Sprucefield Centre and Sprucefield Park, separated by the A1 road.
Sprucefield is also the site of the
Lisnagarvey transmitting station, a large radio transmitter. Sprucefield site is located adjacent to the M1 motorway linking Belfast with the south and west of the province and also the A1, the main road for Belfast to Dublin traffic.
Sprucefield Centre was developed by Marks and Spencer on the site of
Lisnagarvey Hockey Cluband opened in March 1989. The proximity to the radio transmitter required the centre to be built as a Faraday cageto protect electronic equipment from the mast's electromagnetic field. [cite news |first=Carol |last=Leonard|title=Marks and sparks; City Diary |work=The Times |publisher=Times Newspapers|date=1989-03-15|accessdate=2007-07-13] Sprucefield Centre includes shops such as Marks and Spencer, MFI, JJB Sportsand recently, Boots.
The centre was virtually destroyed in January 1991 in an IRA incendiary attack. Three of four stores were destroyed, (
MFI, Allied Maples and Texas), while the Marks and Spencer wing suffered only water damage. [cite news | first = David | last = McKittrick | title = IRA revives firebomb attacks | work = The Independent | publisher =Newspaper Publishing PLC | page = 3 | date = 1991-01-07 | accessdate = 2006-11-28]
An expansion of Marks and Spencer has been reported for many years. An outline planning application was submitted in 1995, followed by a public inquiry in 1999. The Planning Service recommended the proposal be accepted. If built the extension calls for the demolition and resiting of the transmitter station, although these plans never went ahead. In August 2007, Marks and Spencer opened a large homeware section (second largest in the UK after Manchester) on the Sprucefield site in what had been the adjoining Homebase shop. Homebase's lease on the building was not renewed by M&S who own the entire complex. M&S also upgraded its anchor store with a new café, better lighting and customer friendly walkways. The expansion of their Sprucefield store makes it the largest store in Ireland and the third largest in the United Kingdom.
Sprucefield Park was opened in 2003, with
Sainsbury'sand B&Qas anchor tenants. There are three smaller units; one of which is occupied by Currys, one by Argos and another Toys 'R' Us. The 21,500m2 (231,426ft2) project was managed by a Stannifer/Snoddons Construction joint venture. Stannifer is a British property development company, while the latter is a construction company based in Hillsborough, County Down. Construction was carried out by McLaughlin & Harvey. [ [http://www.mclaughlinandharvey.com/project.aspx?CtyID=2&PjtID=79 Retail - Sprucefield Park] . Accessed on 2007-06-28.] Stannifer took ownership of the site, while it retained a 50% share of the proposed second phase. In 2004 The Westfield Group acquired Stannifer's parent (Chelsfield) and took control of the company's shares in Sprucefield Park.
Sprucefield Park (like the Sprucefield Centre) has faced major objections at almost every stage. Sainsbury's announced its move into Northern Ireland on 20 June 1995 [O'Kane, Paul, Sainsbury's to invest £100m in 7 new outlets in North. "Irish Times"
1995-06-21] and opened its first stores in 1997, however it would be eight years before its Sprucefield store was opened. An application for outline planning permission was submitted in July 1998 and final permission was granted in February 2001. [cite press release | title =Sam Foster backs news retail proposals at Sprucefield | publisher =Northern Ireland Department of the Environment | date =2006-02-07 | url =http://www.nics.gov.uk/press/env/010207h-env.htm | accessdate =2006-08-21 ] The planning permission for the centre also included a multiplex cinema and a 150-bed hotel, however these have yet to be built. Lisnagarvey Hockey Club, which sold its pitches to Marks and Spencer for its development, had again to relocate when it sold its pitches to the developers of Sprucefield Park.cite news |first=Graham |last=Hamilton |title=Hockey: Garvey striking it rich with £2m ground |work= Belfast Telegraph|publisher=Belfast Telegraph Newspapers |date=2001-02-10 |accessdate=2007-07-13 ]
In December 2004 the B&Q store was extensively damaged by an incendiary device. The store was closed for approximately six months. [cite news | title ='Incendiary device' caused blaze | url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4110329.stm | publisher =BBC News | date =2004-12-20 | accessdate =2006-08-21] In January 2005 another firebomb was discovered in the centre's Sainsbury's store, however this was successfully defused. Both incidents, and others such as the destruction of a
Nextstore at Forestside Shopping Centrein Belfast, were blamed on dissident republicans. [cite news | title =Incendiary defused in shop | url= http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4133323.stm | publisher =BBC News | date =2004-12-29 | accessdate =2006-08-21]
In June 2004 the developers announced plans for a 220,000 sq ft John Lewis department store and 29 additional units on the site. Despite objections from Lisburn retailers and the Belfast Chamber of Commerce the development was given approval in June 2005 by then Northern Ireland Environment Minister Jeff Rooker. [cite news | title =Green light for John Lewis store | url =http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4599599.stm | publisher =BBC News | date =2005-06-01 | accessdate =2006-08-21 ] However in October 2005 six parties opposed to the development won the right to seek a judicial review of the planning permission. These parties were Belfast City Council, Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce, Lisburn Chamber of Commerce, the owners of Lisburn's Bow Street Mall, Central Craigavon Limited and AM Developments Limited (AM Developments is building the
Victoria Squarecentre in Belfast city centre). On 10 May2006 the appeal was upheld, effectively removing planning permission. However the judge, Mr Justice Girvan, said he was not ruling on the merits of the store itself, rather on the way the decision to grant permission was taken. This allowed a new planning application to be submitted. [cite news | title =Challenge to £40m store is upheld | url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4755893.stm | publisher =BBC News | date =2006-05-10 | accessdate =2006-08-21]
Westfield and Snoddens' reaffirmed their commitment to pursuing planning permission in November 2006 after a new legal challenge by Central Craigavon Ltd., owners of the Rushmere Shopping Centre. [cite news | first = John | last = Manley | title = Retailers defy legal challenge | work = The Irish News | publisher = The Irish News Ltd. | page = 52 | date = 2006-11-09 | accessdate = 2006-11-29 | language = ]
* [http://www.sprucefieldcentre.co.uk/ Sprucefield Centre official site]
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