Making your voice heard?

Mick Fealty highlights on Slugger the “poll” Lisburn City Council is running on their website.

The question concerns the fairly contentious proposal to open a John Lewis store at Sprucefield, just outside Lisburn.

Go and have a read.

I presume that no really deep analysis is required, but there are a few points that are worthwhile/fun to consider.

I’m undecided about the council being so publicly and enthusiastically supportive of such a controversial commercial development. It’s obviously their job to promote the commercial well-being of the city, but this one feels a little too cosy. It’ll probably have a negative effect on businesses in the centre of Lisburn: the existing developments at Sprucefield have done their damage, but as most of them are specialist outlets there has still been space for smaller retail in the city itself. A general department store like John Lewis could be much more damaging to small businesses.

The most serious bit:

This development will potentially create over 2000 jobs and an investment of £200 million. However, if the planning application is unsuccessful, it will mean a loss of over 2000 jobs which the Lisburn City Economy, and indeed the Northern Ireland Economy cannot afford.

Read it carefully — this is just wrong. The development may bring 2000 new jobs (although this figure could be offset by possible job losses from smaller businesses), but not gaining those 2000 jobs is definitely not the same thing as losing them. I find this argument quite worrying, as it’s disingenuous and manipulative. Weaselly, you could say. (David Braziel tweets wittily to illustrate.)

And finally, my favourite: the single, supportive, option available in the “poll”. The council website refers to this as a poll, several times. It’s not a poll. To say “poll” implies some sense of consultation and representation, and may even lend a smidgen of credibility — credibility that would be lessened were this recognised for what it was, a campaign and petition to bring a big business to Lisburn.

That said, I doubt it’ll do their case any good. “Look, Minister, all these people clicked a button on our website!” How many people didn’t click the button? We’ll never know.

(I’m not necessarily against the development, by the way. I’m just not impressed with how our city council is presenting the question.)