Northern Ireland

Mark H Durkan 'lawfully adopts Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan'

Belfast
Image caption The Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan covers not just Belfast but outlying areas such as Carrickfergus, Lisburn, Newtownabbey and North Down

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has said that he has lawfully adopted the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan.

Mr Durkan was addressing the Northern Ireland Assembly on Monday.

When questioned about whether his department is now open to legal challenge, he said he would robustly defend its decision in the courts.

He said he trusted that other ministers would be reluctant to waste public money on a protracted legal battle.

He said he brought the plan to the executive on several occasions.

The only issue raised related to the restriction on the sale of bulky goods at any further expansion of the Sprucefield retail area near Lisburn, he said.

The plan, BMAP, is a framework for greater Belfast.

It identifies zones for retail, residential or commercial development. The plan affects almost 40% of the Northern Ireland population.

Last week, Mr Durkan said he had approved the plan without the agreement of all his colleagues in the executive.

The DUP had previously said that BMAP was a cross-cutting matter relevant to more than one department and should have the agreement of the whole executive.

The minister confirmed that some of his executive colleagues were unhappy with the retail zoning given to Sprucefield near Lisburn.

The BMAP treatment of Sprucefield limits future expansion to "bulky goods" only, which would mean a proposed John Lewis shop could not be built there.

The plan covers not just Belfast but outlying areas such as Carrickfergus, Lisburn, Newtownabbey and North Down.

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