Task force initiative is welcomed by Chamber President

THE High Street Task Force Report published by the Social Development Minister has been welcomed by Chamber of Commerce President, Winnifred Mellett.

The report followed on from public meetings held across Northern Ireland by a High Street Task force set up by the Minister.

Commenting on the report President Mellett said: “Ballymoney was one of 29 towns where Task Force meetings were held. The Minister’s officials were in Ballymoney on 13th June last year and at a well attended meting local traders and service providers put forward their views. Issues included rates, vacant properties, car parking and enforcement, access to the town, competition from out of town.

“According to the report published these were among the common themes emerging from meetings across the province. In one way that gives us comfort and in another strength in that traders across the province are pressing for action on common issues which adversely impact on business.”

Making reference to the recommendations and conclusions of the report Mrs Mellett said: “Its clear much more needs to be done to protect and support town centres and the recommendations put forward, which the Minister has accepted, gives us food for thought. The Chamber will be giving consideration to these. In Ballymoney we have a very cohesive working relationship with Council and the Regeneration Company and we will continue to build on this for the benefit of local business and customers.”

Alderman Bill Kennedy, Development Committee Chair weighed in behind the Chamber President in welcoming the report, commenting: “ Many of the issues on property rent, rates, car parking, vacancy, unfair competition highlighted by towns across the province are “hardy annuals”, raised time and again at town forums we have held.

“The Minister has accepted that these impact adversely on towns, particulary in the current difficult trading conditions. I welcome his focus on tackling dereliction, supporting businesses and encouraging town centre living”

Continuing Alderman Kennedy said: “This High Street Task Force Report has come at a very appropriate time for us as we are in the process of developing a Masterplan for the town centre .

“The Regeneration Company are also due to launch in the next few weeks the Townscape Heritage Initiative, funded by Heritage Lottery, which will see some 28 properties regenerated over a five year period, injecting an investment of £2M into our town. Its great to learn, too, the Old Church School at St Patrick’s, has secured funding from Heritage Lottery to bring that key building back into use .

“We will continue to work with our key partners to strengthen the competitiveness of our town and increase investment confidence. I look forward to achieving a blueprint for managing the regeneration of Ballymoney town centre; providing guidance on the location and form of development of our town over the next 20 years.

“As Chair of Development Committee I want to see for our town the retention of jobs, creation of new opportunities for investment and new jobs, and actions which will generate more visitors and spend, contributing to the long term viability of the town centre, and as a consequence, improved prosperity for our borough area generally.” he concluded.