Carryduff's ghost shopping centre loses last retailer
One of Northern Ireland's oldest shopping centres is on the brink of closure as the last retailer in the mall has announced he will leave the centre in April.
Keith Kane, one of Northern Ireland's top hairdressers, said he feels forced to leave the shopping centre where his salon has been based for almost three decades.
Mr Kane was named Northern Ireland's best hairdresser twice, in 2008 and 2009, and previously won the Schwarzkopf World Hairdressing Championships.
He said an exodus of retailers has meant his hairdresser's is now the last occupied retail unit in the mall, accompanied only by a charity coffee-shop run by volunteers from three churches. He plans to move his business to the Cyril Johnston Complex at Woodlawn where he hopes to open a hair academy and millinery shop.
Carryduff Shopping Centre was opened in the late 1980s. However, a planning application to demolish the centre is currently under consideration.
The centre hit turbulent times in 2013, when its anchor tenant Supervalu moved out as the result of reduced footfall. As customer numbers continued to dwindle, the remaining shops also began to close.
A planning application was submitted in July to demolish the centre.
A previous planning application for the centre to be razed and flats to be built on its site was submitted in 2007 and approved in 2012. However, the development never progressed.
The new application requested permission for 2,500sq m of retail space, almost 6,000sq m less than the original application, as well as 26 townhouses and 22 semi-detached houses.
Some businesses remain along the centre's exterior units including Winemark and a chip shop.
However, part of the shopping centre's roof has already been removed.
Mr Kane explained that this had caused flooding in the salon, damaging half of the salon's work stations and costing him business.
He added that the centre's demise had left his staff demotivated and feeling in the dark over the salon's future.
As a result, his staff count had dropped from 26 to 18.
He said: "Before it was mainly independent traders and that was the nice thing about it. But they've all gone now.
"It's the whole look of the place now - there's nothing to do here."
But despite the silent mall, the hairdresser remains busy.
He said his strong customer base had kept the business afloat but added that retailers who relied on passing trade had seen their businesses decimated.
Councillor Nathan Anderson said the opening of out-of-town shopping centres nearby had affected the centre.
He said: "There has been a slow process of decline and as a local representative it is very disappointing to see.
"I'm saddened by the recent decline but I believe there will be a brighter future ahead when the community and council work together.
"I would like to see Carryduff redeveloped and I am fully supportive of any move to make it a better place to live, shop and work."
Concerns have been voiced by residents who fear the town has lost its heart. Roisin Donnelly, secretary of Carryduff Regeneration Forum, said: "The forum has concerns over the current planning application which has been submitted. At the moment Carryduff is very under-represented in terms of basic services and places to shop.
"The impact that has on the community is that there's no social heart to Carryduff. I hear a lot of people complain about isolation, there's no heart for people to meet or relax in.
"There's great community spirit in the town but in many ways Carryduff is still a blank canvas."
Carryduff Shopping Centre is owned by a Causeway Asset Management, a company directed by property developer Paddy Kearney.
Mr Kearney was mentioned in loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson's Nama evidence to the Stormont finance committee.
However, Mr Kearney told the committee he had been the victim of "unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations" and "unwarranted personal attacks".
Representatives from the centre declined to comment.