Belfast Telegraph

Derry rescue plan forges forward

Traders receive strong backing as they present proposals to council

By Donna Deeney

The Independent Traders’ Forum in Londonderry is forging ahead with its five-point plan to save the city centre.

The groups said it has been buoyed by an overwhelming level of support from the people it represents.

The plan was unveiled this week at an event jointly hosted by the Derry traders and the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA).

It includes the recommendations that Derry becomes the first city in Northern Ireland to be granted Enterprise Zone status, a major ‘shop independent’ campaign is undertaken and a strategy to promote the city centre as a location for new retail development is adopted.

In the days since the plan was unveiled, representatives from both organisations have presented it to the Ilex Regeneration Company and Derry City Council's Planning Committee.

Chairman of Derry Traders’ Forum Martin McCrossan said it had been encouraged by the response received from both organisations but will press Ilex and the council to demonstrate their support with actions.

“Since we presented the plan,

the response we have had from our own members has been fantastic and we also take encouragement from the reaction from Ilex and the council, who appear to be very sympathetic,” he said.

“But words will not be enough, we will press both organisations to show they are serious about saving this city.

“The high turnout at the meeting on Monday night shows the level of support there is from all the traders in the city centre, not just the independents.”

Of major concern to the traders is the unprecedented number of planning applications for retail giants to build out-of-town stores, which they say will turn Derry into a ‘donut' with virtually no retail outlets in the city centre.

Mr McCrossan argues that this need not be the case if multinationals were made to develop their businesses within the city limits.

He said: “Primark is a large multinational trading very successfully in the heart of the city.

“This shows what can be achieved if the minister uses his imagination and tells the other retail giants to develop their businesses inside the city.”

NIIRTA chief executive Glyn Roberts said the interest in the plan for Derry has reached beyond the city limits.

“Our plan has received very positive feedback from local businesses and politicians, not just in Derry but from other parts of Northern Ireland,” he said.

“Our meeting with the council was constructive and we appreciated the many positive comments from councillors about our plan.

“However they need to take a firm stand against the out-of-town superstore development which will accelerate the decline of an already struggling city centre towards a ghost town starved of shops and vibrancy.”

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