Support plan for ‘hard-pressed’ traders challenged at Mid and East Antrim Council
Business owners are to be consulted by Mid and East Antrim council on town centre activity in a bid to boost Covid recovery in the year ahead, the Borough Growth Committee has been told.
An update to councillors said it was “imperative” that businesses get involved in action plans to encourage footfall.
Traders who take part in a reopening retail programme will be in line for a grant of up to £300 through the Department for Communities town centre recovery funding.
Thirty-five businesses have signed up to a ‘Revamp, Refresh, Reopen’ programme which will be delivered by a retail consultancy with participants receiving advice on shop windows, lay-out, displays and lighting.
Twenty hand sanitiser stations have been purchased for installation in Mid and East Antrim’s three towns centres and “town centre branded” face coverings will be provided to businesses for staff use.
However, Carrickfergus DUP councillor Alderman Billy Ashe told the meeting: “All these businesses have been closed for a long time through no fault of their own.
“A week’s money is hard to replace. After that, it is really difficult. I know a lot of people in Carrickfergus are wondering whether they should go back in.”
Ald Ashe proceeded to read a text message to the committee that he had received from a “prominent Carrick businessman” highlighting concerns over graffiti which has been spray painted in the town coupled with the impact of the pandemic on trade.
He asked: “Am I expected to go back to one of our most prominent traders and tell him about 20 hand sanitisers and getting £300 for a display model.”
He also questioned a planned social media marketing campaign to promote local businesses saying that statistics suggest that people over 50 who have disposable income do not use social media.
“Is this the best we can do for our hard-pressed businesses. They are on their knees.”
He suggested that the council should run its own community radio station several times a year.
“We need to be more proactive and look at things that are much more sustainable,” he stated.
Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter
Click here to read: Year-long ‘pop-up’ shops for Mid and East Antrim Borough
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