Belfast Telegraph

Another £1.5m for Northern Ireland fake shop front plan

By David Young

A further £1.5m is to be invested in fake shop fronts and tackling dereliction in towns and cities across Northern Ireland.

The funding commitment from the Department of the Environment comes after revamps of a number of areas preparing for major events received a broad welcome.

Portrush was given a facelift prior to last year's Irish Open, Londonderry got the same treatment ahead of its year as UK City of Culture while parts of Fermanagh were cleaned up before the G8 summit was hosted in the county last month.

Environment Minister Alex Attwood said £2m has already been spent in nine council areas, including Belfast.

The most visible aspect of the scheme involves painting the shutters on empty shops to depict thriving businesses. Critics have rounded on the scheme for merely 'papering over the cracks' caused by the recession.

The town that will benefit most from the new funding is Strabane, which will receive £200,000.

Ballymena and Larne, both in Co Antrim, will get £160,000.

The additional money was allocated by Finance Minister Sammy Wilson to Environment Minister Alex Attwood as part of the June re-allocation of Executive funds.

"This dereliction funding scheme grows from strength to strength," said Mr Attwood.

"This is a project of increasing significance. Tourists will be put off by eyesores. If we deal with dereliction, vacant properties and abandoned building sites, we create the opportunity to attract local investment and tourists. This investment is also for the people of the area. They will have the character of their built environment improved."

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