Belfast Telegraph

No Greggs for Northern Ireland town but Cafe plans perk up traders' hopes

High Street, Lurgan in 1964
High Street, Lurgan in 1964
The original site of Northern Bank at Number 14
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Traders in the centre of Lurgan have said they are hopeful that plans to convert an historic former bank building into a cafe will go ahead.

The listed building at 14 High Street had been occupied by Northern Bank, and later by homegrown department store Houstons.

But it has been vacant for four years since the collapse of Houstons - prompting landlord Lurganbridge Ltd, which also owns property in Banbridge, to apply for planning permission to convert the ground floor into a coffee shop.

The landlord's plans were first revealed on news website Armagh I.

But high street coffee shop chain Greggs dismissed speculation that it had its eye on the property as its first opening in Lurgan.

A spokeswoman said: "We have no immediate plans for Lurgan but are continuing to look for opportunities and locations to open more shops in Northern Ireland in the year ahead.

"We will share additional information as soon as we are in a position to do so."

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Colin Johnston, a director of Lurganbridge, said a Northern Ireland-based businessperson had been attached to the coffee shop project but that their plans had fallen through.

"I would love it if Greggs would rent the place from me," he said.

Previous plans to turn the building into a doctors' surgery did not go ahead.

Simon Dowey, the co-owner of a third-generation butcher's shop on High Street close to the empty building, said he hoped the coffee shop plans would progress.

But he said it was often easier for developers to spend money on new development rather than invest in heritage buildings.

"Town centres like Lurgan really need investment but it's very hard to invest in old property," he added.

Mr Dowey said new businesses like coffee shops and bakeries were badly needed in the town. He said people were tending to come into the town centre for appointments instead of browsing shops at a leisurely pace.

"As a small business ourselves, any investment will be welcome for our town centre," he added.

Noel Burns, the owner of a nearby hairdressers in the town, said he was also hopeful the site could be redeveloped. "Almost anything would be better than what it is now. It's lying there derelict and it looks awful."

He said shoppers were put off spending a long time in the town centre by parking restrictions limiting them to just one hour at a time.

Belfast Telegraph