Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Controversial town revamp that has Lurgan up in arms

Facelift a greater concern than the dissident threat

Belfast Telegraph reporter Victoria O'Hara talks to Rachel Shanks(17) and Zoe Gorman.

It has hit the headlines for being a hotbed of dissident activity. In recent months Lurgan has seen rioting, an attempted train hijacking and a bomb explosion which could have claimed the lives of three young girls.

But yesterday, while briefly mentioned, the dissident activity was not the main concern of those who live in this small market town.

Locals instead are preoccupied with the bread and butter issues that affect their lives.

Their biggest concern was the town centre facelift.

Millions are being spent on upgrading Market Street and Castle Place, however there is little or no benefit to date, according to disgruntled traders and shoppers.

Like other market towns of its size in Northern Ireland, Lurgan has fallen victim to the economic downturn.

Retailers have also been hit by the loss of business to out-of-town shopping centres.

Efforts have been made to encourage people back onto Market Street, a once-thriving thoroughfare.

But the Public Realm scheme — which once completed is supposed to attract investment — has caused controversy.

Danielle Loughrin (20), a student, described the town centre as an eyesore.

“It is one big traffic jam. People coming into town can't get parked. It is so busy with traffic going through the main road. A lot of people go elsewhere,” she said.

Young mum Niamh Moore (22), from Lurgan, complained that the roadworks had made shopping difficult.

“It's a hassle coming though the town now with a pram. They said they were widening the streets to make it easier for people, but the kerbs are too high and the pavement is uneven.”

A lack of variety was also on the minds of locals.

Kathryn Lindsay (26), a bank worker, said: “If you want chip shops and pubs and pound shops it is great, but for anything else it is a stretch — it's not great for a variety of shopping.”

But there were residents, however, who were concerned about the dissident threat.

Irene, a grandmother in her 60s, said she was “too scared” to give her second name.

“The problems are the dissidents, drugs and young people drinking. These are big issues in Lurgan — drugs especially.”

Anne White (47), from Lurgan, voiced concern about anti-social behaviour in the town.

“I remember when my mum used to take me into Lurgan as a child to the parks at the weekend — but now I wouldn't let my son go near them. It attracts young people, drinking and fighting, and I don't think it's safe.”

However, it is not all doom and gloom.

While many are concerned about the loss of trade in the town, there is a strong will to make Lurgan a success. And local traders speak of how the business community regularly meets to discuss future projects.

And although concerns about the future have been voiced, there are some who feel proud of the town.

What you said...

Robbie White (71) retired

“I've lived here all my life. It isn't a bad place to live.

“If you go down to the end of the main street and further on, on a Saturday night there is no one to be seen. Of course there needs to be more life in the town, but what can you do?”



David Johnston resident

“The Public Realm Works has made driving through the town centre a nightmare.

“It has caused more congestion.

“ If you get stuck in traffic it can be annoying, it's not a total disaster but it is an inconvenience.”





Robert Courtney (26) unemployed

“There are no jobs here, that's my main issue. I have to start looking further outside Lurgan, like Portadown. I've been looking for about two years now and it is hard. But I'm raising a child here. I think it is a safe enough place to do that.”





Paul Mitchell (25) resident

“I've spina bifida. My main problem is access into shops, the aisles are sometimes too narrow when I am on the scooter. There is also an issue with anti-social behaviour. Last week I had a firework thrown at me by a crowd of young people.”



Carol Copeland resident

“I think one of the big things is the dog dirt on the streets, it's everywhere. The council need to take more action. In fairness, the council do try to clean it up in the town centre but it's everywhere else. People don't clean up after their dogs.

Gary Uprichard (19) works in Lurgan

“I live in Aghalee so I don't actually live in Lurgan. I have been working here as an accountant all summer, |so to be really honest I wouldn't really come here unless I had to.

“There really isn't much to do in Lurgan.”



David Isreal (18) trains in Lurgan

“I do retail training here in Lurgan – that is why I am here.

“I would spend a bit of time hanging out in Lurgan. It's OK but there's not that much to do. I think it could do with less traffic and make more room for pedestrians.”



Margaret McConville resident

“Pound shops, pubs and takeaways — that is Lurgan. It needs more shops.

“Yes it has some nice gift shops but there is a lack of different clothing stores. I work in the town centre and every lunchtime I find myself going into the same stores.”



Rachel Shanks (17) student

“I think the people in Lurgan are really friendly.

“But there needs to be better shops, I don't think there are enough shops for young people for make-up and for clothes; we would go to Portadown and even Belfast for clothes.”

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