A good investment or just a waste of money?

The last city centre public realm scheme, which cost �5 million, saw major works carried out at Market Square and Bow Street. Pic by John Kelly
The last city centre public realm scheme, which cost �5 million, saw major works carried out at Market Square and Bow Street. Pic by John Kelly

There has been a mixed reaction to the news that another public realm improvement scheme is to take place in Lisburn city centre.

The £3.7 million Lisburn Linkages project, announced by Communities Minister Paul Givan last Friday, is seen by some as a welcome investment, but by others as a waste of public money.

The scheme will include works to improve footpaths, lighting and street furniture at Bridge Street, Antrim Street, Railway Street, Castle Street, Seymour Street, Bachelor’s Walk and Market Place.

The last public realm project, which cost £5 million and was only officially unveiled in November 2015, caused considerable disruption in and around the city centre, particularly for local traders and shoppers.

Lagan Valley MLA Mr Givan says the latest scheme will “complement other public realm work already completed in the city”, and Cllr Uel Mackin believes it will be “a catalyst to help attract new investment to the city and increase visitor numbers.”

The multi-million pound investment has also been given a cautious welcome by the city’s Chamber of Commerce.

The Ulster Star carried news of the project launch online on Friday afternoon, and the reaction on social media wasn’t particularly positive.

Janice Spence posted on Facebook: “This is a complete joke. The investment in Lisburn needs to be where it is needed. Money used to attract businesses to relocate here, to attract retail in the city centre and to get a decent nightlife up and running. How many benches do we need?”

Alan McCullough branded the project “another colossal waste of money”, while Gary Hynds posted: “How about using the money to do sensible things like cutting rates and attracting businesses and decent nightlife to the place?”

Tracy Mearns added: “This is a joke right? Paul Givan is pledging £2million and Lisburn council will put in £1.7million to upgrade footpaths, lighting and street furniture in the city. We have the nicest seats, fountains, lighting in the whole of N. Ireland already just no decent shops, bars, only a few restaurants, no decent markets, no nightlife, no hotel. Really do you think you are going to increase footfall because the pavements are so lovely?”

A number of people commenting on social media suggested that the latest works may have been programmed in response to legal action being taken by a blind woman about the height of kerbing put in during the previous public realm scheme. However, that suggestion has been denied by the Department for Communities.

“The recently announced Lisburn Linkages project is an entirely separate public realm scheme. There is no direct overlap with the previously finished public realm works, with the exception of ‘tying in’ to the those areas already completed,” a department spokesperson said. “The success of the earlier phases of work in Lisburn city centre is clear for all to see; final ‘snagging’ issues are due to be completed in the next few weeks under the original contract.”

• Read related story - Minister announces £3.7m investment for Lisburn city centre