Calls for public to get behind Larne’s town centre have intensified as the competition for Rising Star of the High Street heats up
There have been renewed calls for the public to get behind Larne as its Main Street prepares for a final push for votes in the battle to win Rising Star of the High Street in the prestigious Great British High Street awards.
It comes as the town centre was shortlisted recently in the highly-regarded national retail awards, where winners will be named in each of the four UK nations – England, Scotland, Wales and, for the first time, Northern Ireland.
The Rising Star Award recognises the nation’s most ambitious high streets, which are ‘‘taking the lead and working together to revive, adapt and diversify.’’
The 38 shortlisted finalists have been assessed by the Great British High Street Judges, who have been conducting visits to each high street recently to account for 70 per cent of the overall vote. The other 30 per cent will be determined by social media support, which closes at midnight on October 31.
Environmental improvements in the town centre include street art, floral displays and “yarn bombing” as well as new paving and street lighting.
Ulster Unionist Councillor Mark McKinty has appealed for the public to get behind Larne in a final push for votes.
Cllr McKinty - himself a trader just off Main Street - has expressed his delight in the shortlisting of Larne in the competition: ‘‘We have a town centre of which we should be rightly proud. In recent years many pressures, including online retail, have presented problems for our traders. Yet Larne is holding its own compared to other locations, particularly thanks to small and independent stores and the fantastic welcome and service our town offers.
‘‘Recently, civic pride has been bolstered by groups of volunteers like the Larne Renovation Generation who, alongside Council and other businesses, have injected colour and energy in the town.
‘‘To win this award would really be the crowning glory, and so I encourage everyone to vote for Larne, to Tweet and post messages on social media, but mostly to come and enjoy our great town centre to ensure we go from strength to strength.’’
Cllr McKinty’s words come as Glyn Roberts, Colin Neil and Aodhan Connolly descended upon the town recently, on a day of great positivity amongst locals who came out to show their support for their community, reports Ald Gerardine Mulvenna.
‘‘The buzz this has created in Larne is incredible and there is so much civic pride. The abundance of hard work and dedication which has been generated by Larne Renovation Generation, working in partnership with the business community and Larne Traders Forum has been amazing. I’ve never seen Larne Town Looking so colourful, it just makes you smile and encourages civic pride. I’ve always said that the voluntary work by our community groups within the borough is invaluable.
‘‘As a Dementia Champion, I got fantastic response from the traders in Larne to make Larne Town Centre a Dementia Friendly Community and this resulted in Larne winning the best Dementia Friendly Community in Northern Ireland at the Alzheimer’s Society Awards last year. The fantastic developments of Larne football Club’s Inver Park and the very recent opening of The Music Yards new premises, both supported by investment from Kenny Bruce has had an incredible impact on the local community and I really do believe Larne has turned a corner. Growing the economy is our council’s top priority and recognition such as this is priceless.
‘‘We have some of the very best independent traders and businesses around, with the spectacular backdrop of the world famous Causeway Coastal Route.
‘‘To be in with a chance of winning, it is vital everybody rallies behind our bid.
‘‘Supporting the cause couldn’t be easier. All you need to do to show is post on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, using #MYHIGHSTREET and #GBHSLarne to register a vote. Get voting!’’
Alderman Gregg McKeen, DUP, agreed: ‘‘We need to spread the word and get Larne over the line.
‘‘It is vital people recognise Larne as a good town centre, it has a vibrant high street, and it will encourage other traders to come here.
‘‘It also supports the long term traders who have been in Larne through thick and thin. It gives them the encouragement that people will come back into the Main street again.’’
He emphasised: ‘‘It is all about the social media vote now, so I would urge everyone to get out there and make it count and vote for our town in support of all our hard-working traders and local businesses.’’
Readers can vote via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, using #MyHighStreet and #GBHSLarne before October 31.