A MUCH relieved business community in Co Down has welcomed the new DRD Minister’s decision to overturn the installation of on-parking meters in 30 town centres across Northern Ireland.
After constant lobbying at Stormont, with Ministers and with local politicians, the County Down towns of Downpatrick, Ballynahinch, Newcastle and Warrenpoint will now see this threat removed from over their heads and will also be able to compete more effectively and fairly in the market place in their town centres against the rising tide of out-of-town large shopping centres.
Pat Cassidy, Chairman of the Downpatrick Business Forum, said, “We would like to thank Glyn Roberts of NIIRTA and Andrew Irvine of the Association of Town Centre Managers for their great assistance in getting the issue overturned. Our local politicans and many others across Northern Ireland have also strongly opposed the introduction of on-street parking. The local business chambers in Co Down have been totally opposed to it from the beginning.”
“We attended a protest at Stormont just a short time ago and traders and their representative organisations made it quite clear where we stood on this issue. It has solidly united the traders in an effort to protect their future.”
Audrey Byrne, Chairwoman of the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce, added, “We welcome the decision by the new Minister to remove the threat of on-street parking. Our chamber would welcome proper consultation in the future which involved us as a business community and stakeholders in such future decisions. Small businesses in small towns were literally fighting for our survival on this issue. We need to properly value their role in our economy.”
The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association has also applauded the Minister Kennedy’s comments to drop plans for additional on street car parking charges.
Glyn Roberts NIIRTA Chief Executive said, “Mr Kennedy’s comments will be warmly welcomed by local traders and town centre shoppers right across Northern Ireland who were outraged at proposals to introduce on street car parking charges in 30 of our local towns”
“The ‘Park the Charges’ campaign was supported by 6 out of 7 political parties and over 27 business organisations in Northern Ireland. These charges are the last thing our struggling town centres and independent retail sector would have needed at this time”
“We look forward to working with Minister Kennedy to take forward a proper policy agenda on car parking and public transport which is fair to our town centres and local shoppers”
Mr Roberts has also welcomed the announcement that TV retail guru Mary Portas is to carry out a UK Government-backed review saying she aimed at halting the decline of the High Street. She will look at the problem of empty shops and how to prevent the growth of “clone towns” dominated by chain stores.
Ms Portas, the star of ‘Mary Queen of Shops’ and ‘Secret Shopper’, is due to present her findings in the autumn and NIIRTA has called upon the new Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland to invite her to Northern Ireland as part of her inquiry.
He added, “Local shops and high streets in Northern Ireland matter to consumers who use the health of the high street as a barometer for the economy as a whole. Healthy, diverse high streets mean confident consumers and vibrant local shopping holds the key to economic growth and job creation. We welcome this independent review and urge her to address the tough questions about how to put high streets at the heart of recovery.
“We would urge our new DSD Minister Nelson McCausland, who has responsibility for town centres to invite Ms Portas to visit Northern Ireland to meet with him and local stakeholders as part of her enquiry”
“We will be urging the Government not to shy away from the controversial issues and to put in place a strategy that will robustly promote the high street at a crucial time”
“We need robust decisions on planning rules that are explicitly ‘town centre first’ preventing harmful out of town development, we need an approach to business rates that encourages retailers to invest in high streets and neighbourhood centres and we must promote diversity so that consumers have real choice now and in the long term.”