Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 29 November 2014

Independent enterprise zones urged

The Independence Day Pledge encourages people to only shop with local traders on July 4
The Independence Day Pledge encourages people to only shop with local traders on July 4

Towns in Northern Ireland should have designated enterprise zones to develop independent retail in the 21st century.

This July 4 will see the launch of the Independence Day Pledge, with the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) calling for a pro-business Programme for Government to be introduced.

Over 100 MLAs and business owners attended a reception at Stormont in a bid by NIIRTA to gain support for the independent retail sector and encourage people to only shop with local traders on July 4.

Glyn Roberts, NIIRTA chief executive, called on the Executive to produce a multi-department Small Business Act to support these efforts and give more financial access.

The event at Stormont was hosted by Finance Minister Sammy Wilson and sponsored by Northern Ireland-based Phoenix Natural Gas Supply.

"We want to see a new partnership between multiple and independent retailers to invest in our town centres, offer real choice to the consumer and above all build up our private sector toward a sustainable economic recovery. I hope with the launch of the NI Retail Consortium we can achieve that partnership," Mr Roberts said.

"We want to see an even more radical pro-business Programme for Government developed by the Executive which enables our small business and independent retail sector to be at the cutting edge of a new open and prosperous economy."

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland Retail Consortium director Jane Bevis, who represents larger stores, claimed that creating business improvement districts where a levy is improved to tackle problems like city centre crime had worked well in England and Scotland. "Local authorities and businesses put together a plan where they are addressing the problems they have identified for that town centre," she said.

Those problems might include the employment of a town centre manager or safety and crime issues.

Ms Bevis said there was a local vote on the level of the levy to be imposed and if it was passed all the businesses in the area may have to pay.

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