Call to boost town centres with civil service ‘hubs’

A Portadown councillor has urged council officers to focus on the benefits the proposed civil service hubs could bring to the borough’s towns.

Friday, 30th April 2021, 11:04 am
Updated Friday, 30th April 2021, 11:12 am

Councilllor Julie Flaherty raised the issue at Council’s monthly meeting in April following a letter from the Minister of Finance, Conor Murphy MLA, on the issue.

The letter  was in response to correspondence sent by Council calling for a review of the chosen locations of the new civil service hubs.

The reponse notes that “preparations are well underway” for the development of a hub at Marlborough House with the facility expected to open this financial year.

Marlborough House. INLM19-209.

The Minister also confirmed he was focused on working collaboratively with Council to “both maximise local regeneration and redress regional imbalance”.

Reflecting on this letter, Councillor Julie Flaherty said she had met with officials from the Department of Finance herself as she felt it was vital to stress the need to push town centres forward for suitable locations.

“I still feel that this should be seen as a regeneration piece,” said Cllr Flaherty.

“Really, to me, successful regeneration can only succeed if the town centre is seen as a vibrant meeting place for all sections of the community, including business.

“I know they are seriously looking at Craigavon but I really think there is room here for this project to have some benefit for our town centres that have struggled so much over the last year.

“I hope our officers are on board with that sentiment and will continue to press the Finance Minister and the Department on that particular issue.”

Her comments were supported by her Ulster Unionist Party colleague, Alderman Ian Burns.

“I think it is important that these hubs are closer to town centres,” he said.

“There are quite a lot of people commuting from Banbridge every day to Belfast – I have a family member who has been doing it for 30 years.

“To go to Belfast the person can get one bus to go to Craigavon from Banbridge you have to get two.

“If they are looking to cut down on carbon emissions and the carbon footprint, I think it is vital they bring the jobs closer to the people.

“A jaunt to Belfast is easier for the people of Banbridge than going to Craigavon, it is not much of an incentive and I think it is vital these jobs come back into and help to boost the town centre.”

Thanking Alderman Burns for his comments, Council’s Lord Mayor, Councillor Kevin Savage said he agreed with this well made point.

“As someone who has commuted to Belfast for 22 years I can only agree with what you are saying,” said the Lord Mayor.

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