Holywood Exchange is a major retail development on the borders of Belfast and Holywood, Northern Ireland. It is beside Belfast City Airport, in the townland of Knocknagoney. The site was previously known as D5 and Harbour Exchange. At present the development compromises an 11 unit 13,940 m2 (150,000 ft2) retail warehouse centre with (as of November 2010); Harvey Norman, Next Home, Decathlon, and BHS-British Home Store (opened in December 2010). Located beside the retail warehouse is a Sainsbury's store and service station, a B&Q store, and an IKEA store.
Like the expansion of the Sprucefield development, Holywood Exchange has been controversial and the subject of repeated planning problems and legal disputes.
The first planning application for what was then known as D5 was made by Aquis Estates Limited, Anglia and General Developments Limited and Belfast Harbour Commissioners on 14 November 1995. A five-week public inquiry was held in December 1996 and January 1997. In 1997 the Planning Appeal Commission and the Department of the Environment's Planning Service recommended that approval should be granted. Formal planning permission was granted on 13 April 1999. On 21 June 1999 Belfast City Council and The Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce applied for judicial review of the decision to grant planning permission. On 9 July 1999 planning permission for D5 was quashed as it was judged that the Minister did not take the decision with all the relevant information.
Planning permission for the competing Tesco development on the opposite side of the A2 road had been granted on 28 November 1998. Following the quashing of planning permission for D5 its developers sought judicial review of the permission granted to Tesco, arguing that the same could apply to that development, however this was refused on 17 September 1999. This judgement was slightly controversial, given that the judge refused to rescind planning permission solely because the £13 million Tesco store was almost complete.
The developers resubmitted their planning application and were granted permission on 21 March 2000. This decision was again successfully challenged in September 2000. Following another appeal planning permission was granted in February 2001. The Belfast Chamber of Trade lodged a legal challenge with the House of Lords, however its judicial committee refused to grant the chamber of trade leave to appeal. Construction of the B&Q store commenced in December 2002.
The retail warehouse units were not let after completion; they are "the subject of strict guidelines that dictate that only bulky goods can be sold" as a result of the legal challenges to its construction. However in May 2008 The Irish News reported that The Planning Service "is considering an application that would see the addition of a mezzanine floor in the retail warehouse. Retailers say the additional space is necessary for them to display goods." The Irish News named Harvey Norman, Next, T.K. Maxx and Bhs as likely tenants; all selling electric and/or homeware goods.
In January 2006 IKEA announced its intention to build a 25,800 m2 (278,000 ft2) store, its first in Northern Ireland. In May 2006 IKEA amended its application for a larger 29,000 m2 (312,000 ft2) store. The application was approved in December 2006, work on the store began in January 2007 and the store opened on 13 December 2007.
The developers of the Holywood Exchange were able to take advantage of existing road connections. The most important element of these connections was a full flyover on the A2, already built for access to the Belfast Harbour Estate. The Belfast to Bangor railway line runs between the site and the A2. There are proposals for a railway halt to serve both Holywood Exchange and the adjacent Belfast City Airport. However Belfast City Airport argues that constructing the halt adjacent to the airport terminal (further away from Holywood Exchange) would encourage more air travellers to use the rail connection. The Airport has also stated that it will consider providing road access to the airport through Holywood Exchange as a way of reducing congestion on the existing airport access route.
On 16 January 2007 the Regional Development Minister David Cairns announced that a feasibility study would be launched into the construction of a rapid transit route linking Holywood Exchange to Belfast city centre. The route would also serve the airport and the Titanic Quarter development.
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