‘Wake up’ plan for town centre businesses

The chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) was in Portadown on Monday morning to unveil the organisation’s ‘Wake Up’ plan in the face of the creation of the Super Councils.

Glyn Roberts – author of the 80-point plan – said that the NIITRA ‘Local First’ initiative was tailored to make councils and traders aware of the challenges ahead for towns like Portadown “as they face the huge challenges and opportunities that the new council will offer”.

The launch took place in the town centre and was attended by Mayor Mark Baxter, Alderman Gladys McCullough, Chamber of Commerce president Adrian Farrell, with Tony Fearon (secretary) and Bryan McLaughlin, plus Martin McQuillan representing the traders.

Mr Roberts added, “It could be the change-maker for economic development, radical new town centres, innovation and urban regeneration.

“With its enhanced powers the new so-called ABC (Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon) Council will be a vital player in shaping the future of the local economy. We want to see towns like Portadown, within the new set-up, working with the NI Executive, help to create employment, regenerate town centres, revamp car parking and ensure they adopt a fair planning policy.”

Among the 80 recommendations are – strong planning policies for town centres; free Wi-Fi by 2020; iPhone apps by 2016; special ‘retail incubators’; restructured and enhanced Chambers of Commerce; on-street parking transferred to the councils by 2020; empty premises relief; digital High Street policies.