Developer Westfield has withdrawn its planning application for the controversial John Lewis-anchored second phase at Sprucefield, near Belfast.

The 205,000-sq ft Outlet at Bridgewater Park in Banbridge, Northern Ireland has secured 12 new tenants and is now 70 per cent let. In addition a further 7 per cent is in solicitors' hands and 20 per cent in advanced negotiations.

Multi Development has signed four more retailers at Victoria Square, its £320m regeneration scheme in Belfast city centre. All Saints, Reiss, Billabong and GBK will all be opening their first stores in Northern Ireland.

Arnotts' €750m redevelopment of its Henry Street store in Dublin city centre has been given the green light by Dublin City Council. The decision is still subject to ratification by the Irish planning appeals board but it is a step forward for the 1.6m-sq ft Northern Quarter development.

Plans for the development of a former police station in west Belfast has been met with opposition from local residents.

Even though Ireland now has the third highest level of shopping centre space per capita in Europe, the pace of shopping centre development activity shows no signs of abating, according to new research from Jones Lang LaSalle.

Rarely out of the headlines, solicitor and property developer Noel Smyth has been involved in one deal after another, many of which have a strong retail element, as with his latest coup with The Square shopping centre at Tallaght in Dublin.

Right now, the finishing touches are being made to the €500m Athlone Towncentre, in the Irish Midlands, which is scheduled to officially open on October 18.

On the issue of cross-border trade the general perception is, that given the recent political troubles in Northern Ireland and its close links with the South, that a wealth of information is available.

The big MacDonagh Junction shopping centre in under-shopped Kilkenny city is set to open at the end of October. The development covers 50,000 sq m, half of which will be retail space, and construction work by Michael McNamara & Co is due to be completed in September.

Don Nugent has been centre director at Dundrum Town Centre since it opened in 2005, but he has retail in his blood. He has worked on both sides of the fence as a manager and buyer in department stores as well as spending time as manager of The Square at Tallaght. It was this breadth of experience that led Shopping Centre Ireland's readers to vote him their manager of the year.

At Bannon, executive chairman Joe Bannon, managing director Neil Bannon and director Marcus Wren head a team of more than 30 chartered surveyors and commercial property specialists who focus on areas of active asset management and property development.

Sean Mulryan's Ballymore Properties was one of the driving forces behind the recently opened Whitewater in Newbridge, Co Kildare, and this won it the Developer of the Year award. Whitewater was Ballymore's first foray into large-scale mall development, but it's hungry for more, with proposals on the table for the Arnotts site in Dublin and the Florentine site in Bray.

Shopping Centre Ireland's special award went to Joanne Jennings, who has spearheaded the Belfast City Centre Management Company during a time of significant regeneration in Belfast, with retail playing a pivotal role in the city centre's renaissance.

Cork-based firm Musgrave is a tremendous power in retailing in Ireland and yet it attracts little of the media attention or occasional opprobrium often generated by Dunnes Stores or Tesco Ireland. In many ways, with its Centra and SuperValu brands, it is the quiet but highly effective third force in Irish grocery retailing, but this in no way diminishes its retailing capacity and influence.

Delegates attending the annual general meeting of the Northern Ireland Region of Shopping Centres (NIRSC) heard how impeccable customer service standards must be achieved in order to support the substantial investment being made to create world-class local shopping centre infrastructure.

Southwark Council has selected a consortium led by Lend Lease for the ambitious £1.5bn regeneration scheme to redevelop the Elephant & Castle district of south London. Lend Lease and its partners First Base and Oakmayne beat competition from St Modwen, owner of the existing shopping centre.

Hammerson has sold a 50 per cent stake in its 800,000-sq ft West Quay shopping centre in Southampton to GIC Real Estate, the investment arm of the government of Singapore, for £299m.

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, the investment management organisation that invests Canada's national pension fund assets, has ploughed over £275m into UK retail property. The fund emerged as Henderson Global Investors' partner in the £253m purchase of the Whitefriars Quarter shopping centre in Canterbury from Land Securities.

Joint owners of Brent Cross shopping centre, Hammerson and Standard Life Investments, are creating more space at the 860,000-sq ft north London shopping destination to accommodate retailer expansions.

Westfield and Hermes have unveiled plans for an 800-seat café court in the heart of the new £340m Westfield Derby, opening on 9 October.

Swedish fashion giant H&M has become the last large space user within Eden, High Wycombe. It has signed up for an 18,500-sq ft, two-level store in a prime location situated between anchor tenants House of Fraser and Marks & Spencer. Other recent signings at the 825,000-sq ft scheme include Swarovski and Zest Juice Bar.

Shopping centres across the country are accused of offering the same bland, homogeneous mix of retailers. There's nothing new in this - a very similar argument surfaced some years ago - but now, shopping centre owners are increasingly looking to their catering offer as a way of highlighting that elusive point of difference, making their centre a unique experience that offers something special.

The Victoria Quarter in the heart of Leeds city centre is a unique shopping development, home to 75 national and international designer brands.

Food business Pret A Manger looks set to have an ever-greater presence in shopping centres with the impending launch of its first 'Pret Pod' that has been developed as a stand-alone unit to be placed in the aisles of malls.

It feels like I am the only person in the world not going away for a summer holiday this year, having taken mine in the depths of winter. But while our esteemed editor enjoys the sun in Corsica, I caught the train on a rather rainy day to visit Cardiff.

Retail property body BCSC has just completed the industry's most in-depth research programme to date: 'The Future of Retail Property'.

We visited Meadowhall to see how it had coped with the recent flooding. The hoardings on the lower level of the shopping centre showed that the vast majority of units had indeed been affected.

British Land's 1.2 million-sq ft Meadowhall shopping complex and the Magna attraction are only about a mile apart, on opposite sides of the M1 motorway. But their managers - Mohammed Dajani and Matthew Beck - had never met before we asked them to swap jobs for a day.

Found in the heart of the newly-established Hampton township, Serpentine Green is an edge-of-town shopping centre in Peterborough that also provides local shopping for its nearby residents.

Accessibility and customer flow are important considerations for multi-level shopping centres and as such fitting escalators and lifts into new and existing centres can often take a lot of forward thought and planning.

Accessing great heights inside a shopping mall can be a difficult challenge for maintenance and cleaning staff.

The SCEPTRE Award for Centre Manager of the Year at a large shopping centre went to Susan Harris from Frenchgate, Doncaster.

== ? BARNSLEY ==

This year Shopping Centre's readers have voted the John Lewis Partnership as their SCEPTRE Retailer of the Year.

HAMMOND PHILLIPS has made two new appointments in its asset management team. SARAH MILNE-DAY joins from Scurr & Partners as property manager. And MANNY ELMAN, formally financial controller at Cluttons, has joined in the newly-created position of head of management accounts.

UK retail sales were up by 1.2 per cent on a like-for-like basis, compared with July 2006, while the three-month trend rate of growth fell to 2.1 per cent from 2.5 per cent in June, for like-for-like sales, and to 4.1 per cent from 4.6 per cent for total sales, reflecting the continuing growth of retail space.

July saw the Retail FootFall Index (RFI) hit the highest level so far in 2007, as summer rain drove consumers away from the seaside and into shopping centres.

Being 'shipwrecked' in a shopping centre may sound like a dream to most women, but five shoppers at MetroCentre endured a gruelling five days and four nights on the Gateshead centre's very own desert island in a bid to win the holiday of a lifetime.

All aboard! A special collaboration between Chapelfield in Norwich and 'one' railway was celebrated recently with the launch of a unique, 'wrapped' train.

Real estate firm John Arkwright & Co donned their walking boots and put their best feet forward in the Red Cross Three Peaks Challenge last month, winning the 'Top Fundraising Team' award and helping to raise a massive estimated total of £100,000.

Fay Jameson, marketing manager at Ocean Terminal, took a well-earned rest alongside America's most famous family when they visited the Edinburgh mall.

BCSC's Summer Reception, held recently at the Wallace Collection in London, came a day after BCSC launched 'Shopping Places for People' - its view on the future of retail property over the next 10 years. Pictured at the event (l to r) Stuart Rose, chief executive of M&S; Michael Green, chief executive of BCSC; Maddie Strachan; and past BCSC presidents John Strachan, global head of retail at Cushman Wakefield, and Andrew Ogg, managing director of architects Leslie Jones.

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