A strategic plan to enhance the socio-economic future for the entire Mid & East Antrim zone is in the early stages of preparation.
As part of the process, Mid & East Antrim Council’s Planning Committee has begun an‘intelligence gathering’ operation which will initially focus on Ballymena, Larne and Carrickfergus.
Using information collated from reports originally compiled for the old councils, members will familiarise themselves with the current state of these centres with an eye to feeding suggestions for necessary enhancements to their overall ‘offerings’ to the final Local Development Plan (LDP) for the entire zone.
The reports show that while the vitality rating of Larne, Carrick and Ballymena have all dropped during the 2005-2009 period, Larne has experinced thegreatest decline.
The report lists Larne’s strenghths and opportunities as good accessibility and public transport, a high percentage of people in the catchment area who use bars, pubs and eat out doing so in the town itself, and having a comprehensive 15 year regeneration masterplan strategy in place and ongoing environmental improvements.
However, the report also notes weaknesses, which include the bus and train station being detached from the town centre, a poor range of comparison shops including national multiples, major leakage of bulky goods expenditure to other towns, most town centre parking being situated on edge-of-town locations, poor pedestrian linkages between the town centre and Asda/the cinema, limited town centre family leisure activities, low footfall and high vacancies on secondary streets.
The report refers to the town’s 2010 masterplan, which envisages transforming the triangular plot of land enclosed by Pound Street, the High Street and Harbour Highway into a community garden, office and residential amenities in the short to medium term.
The plan also recommends using Circular Road car park as an “events space”.
In the medium to long term, it envisages a major hotel with mixed use retail, residential and public realm usage on the site.
and for bulky goods development, redeveloping Dunluce Street to include a public plaza and multi-storey car park and redeveloping the Waterfront for leisure space and events.