Crawford hits out at city centre proposals

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Former Lisburn councillor Ronnie Crawford has asked what evidence there is that the £300,000 earmarked for the city centre will increase footfall.

Mr Crawford says that the money would be better spent in reducing rates for traders,

“The £300,000 earmarked for the City Centre by Nelson McCausland is not new money,” he said.

“Over half of it has already been spent on painting shop fronts and the order for the City Centre WiFi has already been placed.

“The question which must be asked is whether this money is being spent profitably.

“We already have had a round of expenditure to cover vacant shop windows with graphics.

“Then we had shop fronts painted for the G8 and now another round of paint jobs. What evidence is there that this money increases city centre footfall?

“As for events, some traders are incensed that for two Saturdays in a row city centre streets have been closed and signs placed at Sprucefield discouraging people from coming into the city on those occasions.

“The streets will be closed again for the Mayor’s parade on Saturday May 10 - the same day when many will be flocking to the Giro d’Italia.

“One trader has contacted me to say how, once again Lisburn has been blocked off forcing customers to go to other towns. It is becoming impossible to trade in Lisburn.

“Having spoken to other retailers and the feeling is the same.

“Only this week we have another English coffee shop open to the detriment of Daltons which closed last Saturday. How can the independents sustain this?

“Lisburn has been completely ruined.

“I noticed large electronic notice board at M&S Sprucefield advising people to expect delays in town due to parade, this only further turns people way from the City centre.

“What research has the Economic Development Committee carried out to ascertain the impact these road closures are having on our retailers?

“The £300,000 would have been better spent reducing rates on city centre businesses, which is the main obstacle to putting tenants into empty shops.

“Simon Hamilton has encouraged traders to await the review of business rates but he admits that there is no money to fund a rates decrease.

“He is simply procrastinating until the election is out of the way.

“One trader has said, when it comes to the election, he hopes that people will ignore political parties and family dynasties and vote for candidates who know how to revive our city centre.

“Hopefully this will become a main campaign issue.”