VIRTUAL STREETS FOR BALLYMONEY!

A clean-up of one of Ballymoney’s most prominent eyesores could lead to a commercial boost for the town, it has been claimed.

Linenhall Street and Charles Street which have lain derelict for years are soon to benefit from a facelift that will give them a brand new look and hopefully instill a sense of civic pride as well as generating a more vibrant and friendly atmosphere.

More importantly, the initiative which has taken place in other towns in Northern Ireland has generated fresh commercial interest leading to new shops being opened.

The developers who purchased the property had ambitious plans to construct a mixture of shops and housing, but the current economic climate has led to the deferral of any development and as an interim measure and because of negative and unwelcoming impression created by the substantial site which lies at a key access point to the town centre, action was taken by the council.

Tenders for the scheme close this Wednesay and work is expected to start soon. Much of the funding will come from the Department of Social Development.

Basic repairs and decor of the facades will complement the design of window scenes and all of this has had useful input from business people and community representatives within the town who provided valuable information on the history of former shops and businesses. All of this will be fed into the design process.

A council spokesperson said: “The area is almost one of the first sights that greet visitors entering the town from Coleraine, Ballymena and Ballycastle. It isn’t good looking and something needed to be done.

“It isn’t the answer and we would all like to see the area being re-developed but in the interim this the creation of virtual streets is something we hope will create a better image. We also know that similar schemes have led to interest in opening new shops. We hope this will happen in Ballymoney.”

Recently, demolition of property took place in Charles Street because of health and safety concerns and before that, property in Linenhall Street had to be demolished and bricked up for similar reasons.

The council have discussed the condition and future of the site and Councillor Bill Kennedy says there is an urgent need for something to be done about the site particularly with the news that the Spar shop on the opposite side of the derelict buildings is up for sale.

“That area needs to be brought back to life. We had a very useful meeting last Friday on the Masterplan for Ballymoney which is a 20-year project but a very worthwhile one at and while we are realistic enough to accept the limitations, there are undoubted opportunities for Ballymoney in the future,” Councillor Kennedy said.