Derry traders hail rates cut lifeline
Independent traders in Londonderry city centre have been thrown a lifeline with the provision of a rates cut under the new budget.
Under the legislation, out-of-town retail developments will subsidise the rates of city centre-based shops.
The measure, an extension to the existing scheme that entitles small businesses to rates reductions of up to 50%, will see an increased number of city centre businesses entitled to support.
The manager of Derry City Centre Initiative, Jim Roddy, welcomed the move. He said: “This is an encouraging step forward in our efforts to address the disparity between the hefty rates exacted on city centre traders versus the comparatively low ones being paid by the out-of-town retailers.
“Obviously this measure is not a panacea for all the problems facing independent traders in the current climate, but it's a good start and will hopefully open up the door to further initiatives.”
Mr Roddy praised the efforts of Foyle MLA Martina Anderson for lobbying Environment Minister Edwin Poots to impose a levy on out-of-town developments.
He said: “I'm not a political animal by any means, but I really have to single out Martina Anderson for praise on this.
“She consulted with us several times to get our input on the budget, and it's very heartening to see democracy at work and our voice being heard.”
Local Sinn Fein councillor Paul Fleming labelled the move to place some of the burden of rates costs on out-of-town retailers as “innovative”.
He said: “We have consistently argued that a condition of the planning process should be that large out-of-town developments must include mitigating measures which reduce their impact on the city centre trader.”
He added: “No-one is saying this is a solution to the city centre versus out-of-town debate or that it is a cure for all the difficulties facing our smaller businesses.
“However, it is a welcome step and evidence of the kind of positive, innovative measures which can be taken to protect a business sector which is the backbone of the economy in this city.”