Lisburn Councillor Ronnie Crawford has hit back at the operators of Jordan’s Mill Car Park, who recently launched a petition to encourage the Planning Service to allow the car park to continue to operate.
Mr Crawford said he understood customers desire to have the car park remain, however, he said it was vital the site was developed and that footfall in the city centre was increased.
“Is the fact that the occupiers of the Antrim Street car park have organised a petition for its continuance an indication that the ‘temporary’ label attached to the planning application is a piece of fiction?” he questioned
“The first application for this site to be used as a ‘temporary’ car park was in 1999.
“Fourteen years later the car park is still seeking to operate on ‘temporary basis’, which I consider to be an abuse of the planning process.
“The development of this site is vital to the recovery and survival of Lisburn City Centre as a viable retail offering yet after fourteen years of obfuscation the Planners are still not in receipt of a serious development application.
“Should Planners reverse their decision and allow continued use of this car park for yet another year, who would rule out the possibility of yet another application for a further ‘temporary’ extension this time next year?
“Refusing the application now should cause the owners to take development of the site and its contribution to the city centre economy more seriously.
“I can understand the popularity of the car park given its access and convenience to the heart of the city centre but it needs a major retail development to draw more footfall and stop the series of shop closures and give the confidence necessary for investors to set up new businesses in the many vacant premises in the Mall and city centre.
“Using the site as a car park is not bringing the additional footfall so crucially need by our traders, some of whom are struggling to survive.
“Of course it may well be too late,” he continued. “Whilst many of our councillors have supported the continuance of this car park year after year, the possible listing of buildings required to complete the site assembly may have ended its viability as a serious project to rejuvenate city centre shopping.
“Already we have too many shop fronts wrapped in artwork, like the deserted spaghetti Western film sets in the Almeria desert which are all facades and no businesses operating behind them.
“I earnestly hope the time will not come when the Jordan’s car park will be needed to accommodate tourists wanting to see what a ghost town looks like,” concluded Mr Crawford.