The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) has today set out its policy priorities for 2014.
NIIRTA Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said: “In the short term getting a comprehensive agreement on Parades, Flags and the Past is crucial for political stability and the future economic growth of Northern Ireland. We urge all the parties to go the extra mile for agreement and for a genuine shared future which helps to build prosperity.
“Divided Societies are bad for business, employment and investment”
Local Council Elections
“NIIRTA will be giving a special focus on the elections to the new eleven local councils in May. These councils will be powerful players in urban regeneration, planning, economic development and town centres.
“It is vital that the newly elected Councillors in May are able to hit the ground running with a coherent agenda for change when power is passed to them in 2015.
“We plan to publish our own Local Council Manifesto in the next few months setting our new policy priorities and engaging with candidates from all parties.
Northern Ireland Executive
“Given our huge problem of having the highest shop vacancies in the UK, we need urgent action.
“Firstly, the First and Deputy First Ministers should devote a special Executive meeting to address this problem, drawing up a ‘Marshall Plan’ of measures. Part of the problem is that responsibility for Town Centres is scattered across four different Government departments and we need to see a comprehensive joined up plan covering Business Rates, Planning Policy, Car Parking and Town Centre Regeneration.
“We believe that this new plan should include the creation of Retail Incubator Units to support the next generation of retail entrepreneurs and a new Vacant Shop Strategy. Instead of looking at the massive amount of empty shops in our town centres as just derelict buildings –lets be ambitious and see them as the new retailers and small businesses of the future.
“The Executive should organise a major conference to bring together international experts in retail and regeneration to identify how other towns and cities across the world have successfully dealt with these problems and more importantly how we can learn from them,” added Mr Roberts.