Market traders who operate in Lisburn Square each Tuesday are outraged after receiving a letter informing them that the market will be closed for the next 14 weeks.
Whilst the portion of the market in Smithfield car park will continue, the traders who are based in Lisburn Square will have nowhere to pitch their stalls.
Chris McNabb, who operates a seafood stall with his father in Lisburn Square, said the traders were very upset about the sudden announcement from the new owners of Lisburn Square.
“We were handed a letter today (Tuesday) to tell us there would be no market for the next 14 weeks,” explained Chris.
“We can’t believe it. We are already struggling with the economic downturn and this could put some of us on the dole.
“My family has traded in Lisburn for 35 years and in Lisburn Square for over a decade. Lisburn is our main business and this could really damage us.
“We could cope with being closed for one week but not 14. There could have been more compromise or something done to accommodate the stall holders.”
A spokesperson for the new owners of Lisburn Square said the closure was essential to allow renovations to take place.
Nicky McCollum from Lisburn Square explained: “From the outset, we have made our commitment to investing in Lisburn Square to ensure its future economic viability clear. As part of that commitment we are investing considerably in the enhancement of the current development. We are undertaking a completely new look and feel and, whilst the name will remain the same, we will be rolling out a fresh and exciting branding concept.
“We are also undertaking a complete Enhancement Programme of the Square to prepare it for re-launch. This programme includes the refurbishment of the external unit facades, repainting of the entire development, new planting and enhanced lighting as well as minor maintenance works. This has been hugely welcomed by both the existing retail tenants and apartment tenants who live at Lisburn Square.
“Once we have completed the Enhancement Programme, we will actively begin seeking new tenants for the current stock of available units. It is our belief that by making this investment in the look and feel, it will enhance our ability to quickly attract much needed mixed-use tenants to Lisburn Square, which has the potential to deliver up to 150 - 180 jobs for the people of Lisburn and the surrounding areas.
“Unfortunately due to health and safety legislation, the management company cannot allow the market stalls to operate during the timeline of the Enhancement Programme. They have communicated with the market traders to explain that trading cannot take place for a number of weeks due to the refurbishment.
“During this time, the management company will be considering various options in terms of a market format that will work sympathetically with the units.
“Traders have been asked to give their details so that they can be updated. We look forward to re-launching Lisburn Square in the coming months.”
Lagan Valley MLA Edwin Poots has urged Lisburn Council to find somewhere for the displaced traders.
“Lisburn Market has been around for many years and when Lisburn Square was built it was agreed it would provide market space for traders,” said Mr Poots.
“This letter shows traders are not being facilitated and it is unacceptable.
“The council, who have a responsibility for the markets and to provide services in the car park need to address the issue to ensure traders can operate.
“It is grossly unfair for traders not to be able to trade for 14 weeks and solutions need to be found to ensure traders have the opportunity to continue trading.
“The brand of Lisburn Market may be damaged as in the interim it will become small and like many other markets. It is a huge asset to the area.”
Send us your views to firstname.lastname@example.org