Call for task force to fight for town centres

Carla Lockhart MLA.
Carla Lockhart MLA.

There’s been a call for a task force to be set up to ensure town centre regeneration.

DUP MLA Carla Lockhart wants to see a collaboration between Council, local business and Government bodies to ensure our town centres remain vibrant and attractive for trade.

The Upper Bann representative is concerned at the number of premises now vacant across town centres. In the last number of years Argos, SuperValu and Dunnes Stores have closed their premises in town centres across the constituency.

Ms Lockhart said, “I speak daily to traders across the area and keep close ties with the Chambers of Trade. I know they have concerns about footfall, rates and accessibility for shoppers among other things.

“Everyone has a responsibility to ensure our town centres thrive. I am a vocal advocate of shopping locally and if we have an attractive and welcoming shopping area the consumers will respond.

“Draw down the expertise we have from all sectors and market and plan the great facilities we have. There are too many vacant premises across Upper Bann and whilst we see some businesses investing we also see others opting to streamline their operations. A shop has to make business sense and as such needs to be profitable. If it is crippled by overheads this makes it difficult. We need a sensible and affordable approach by local government and landlords to utilise premises where possible.

“I will be speaking with local council reps and Chief Executive to ascertain if this is possible and to look at possible terms of reference. I have spoken with Ballymena Council who set up a manufacturing task force following the closure of some manufacturing businesses. If there is a model there I believe we should mirror it.

“I look forward to this challenge and trust that all political reps and agencies will see the merit in it.”

Earlier this year Councillor David Jones of UKIP made a similar call for Portadown town centre.