Larne retailers fear Main Street diversion

Part of Main Street will close to traffic due to public realm work. INLT-02-713-con
Part of Main Street will close to traffic due to public realm work. INLT-02-713-con

Some Main Street retailers fear their businesses will suffer under plans to close a section of the road to traffic for up to five weeks.

Some Main Street retailers fear their businesses will suffer under plans to close a section of the road to traffic for up to five weeks.

A letter delivered to traders last week by the council’s public realm works contractor Earney Contracts stated that, as of January 25, traffic will be diverted down Broadway and up Lower Cross Street.

It added that “from Danske Bank to the town hall, works will be carried out to both sides of the street”.

A spokesperson for Earney Contracts said the move would facilitate paving work.

While pedestrians will still be able to access businesses in the affected zone, some traders fear a decline in footfall and problems receiving deliveries.

Owner of Prestige Flooring and Bathrooms Ellis Cahoon, who recently relocated from Lower Cross Street to Main Street, says it is the second time his trade has been hit by the public realm scheme.

“Before Christmas, Lower Cross Street was closed for two-and-a-half weeks. Now we will have the same here,” he said. “I don’t know why they can’t do one side of the footpath at a time.

“At the public realm scheme meetings we were not made aware the road would be closed.

“I am worried about getting deliveries. I take deliveries of 100 boxes of tiles weighing 32kg a box and I need the vans to get through.

“I also have a lot of elderly people doing their houses up and they won’t like walking on uneven ground.”

Co-owner of Aroma Coffee House, Karl Wilson, said he hadn’t envisaged the problems the public realm scheme would cause when he launched his business on Main Street a few months ago.

“We have had power cuts, we have had to close early, the workmen’s vehicles and barriers are taking up parking spaces,” he explained.

“Five weeks will put some traders out of business,” Mr Wilson claimed.

“We can’t even get our bins lifted. I’m not happy considering that rates are staying the same.”

However, owner of Ballantine’s Fashion, Gordon Kennedy, said that while he would prefer the road not to close, he had been reassured that his deliveries would still be able to get through.

“As long as there is pedestrian access, I think it will be ok,” he added.

“January is probably the best time to get it out of the way.”

Vice-chair of Larne Traders’ Forum Mark Dobbin said traders had not been warned of road closures during information events on the scheme.

“At the public realm scheme meetings they said there were no roads to be closed,” he explained. “This will affect businesses and footfall.”

Head of Procurement and Public Liaison Officer at Earney Contracts, Hannah Lamb,e told the Times that the company had a permit to close the section of Main Street until the end of February “at maximum” and said that businesses would still be able to receive deliveries.

At a meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Economic Growth and Development Committee on January 18, council officer Aidan Donnelly told elected representatives that the council’s contractor was now working “almost directly behind NIE on Main Street”.

“Unfortunately, this means there is a lot of work going on on Main Street,” he said. “As soon as NIE finish, our contractors move in.

“The second stage will require a road closure on Larne Main Street to enable work to progress.”

DUP alderman Gregg McKeen said the two contractors working close together had caused “confusion”.

“A couple of businesses have contacted me regarding electricity outages,” he said. “Their premises closed for the evening as the power was out, NIE had hit a cable.

“It is going around that what we are doing is causing problems, but it is a separate contractor doing work”.

Ald McKeen then asked if compensation might be available for the businesses which had lost a night’s trade, perhaps through NIE.

Regarding the closure of a section of Main Street, Ald McKeen asked whether the work could be done in the evening or early in the morning to minimise disruption to traders.

“This is being done for the greater good and for a short period of time but can we ask the contractors for early mornings or evenings,” he said.

“The key thing is communication, to give traders a fighting chance to run their businesses and staff around what’s happening,” Ald McKeen added.

Mr Donnelly said that altering the hours the contractors were working would come at a cost.

“I can look at that with a professional team, take advice and put a cost on it if we want to look at this, but I feel it will be a substantial cost,” he stated.

An NIE spokesperson commented: “Our customer services team will be in touch with the customer involved. NIE Networks operates to a set of agreed standards and if a customer is off for more than 24 hours they are entitled to claim a payment. More information on our customer standards is available at nienetworks.co.uk”