Larne is ideally positioned to serve as the driving force for the development of business and tourism in Mid and East Antrim, it has been claimed.
As part of the Regional Development Strategy 2035 – a spatial plan set out by the Northern Ireland Executive – Larne has been designated as both a main hub and a gateway, reflecting the town’s pivotal role as a point of entry and departure for trade and people.
The strategy emphasises the importance of NI’s gateways and encourages clustering of towns and cities so that services can be shared.
And East Antrim MLA Oliver McMullan believes Larne’s designation within the document could be the catalyst for Mid and East Antrim Council to build an economic strategy around the success that Larne Borough Council and their partners – such as LEDCOM – have already established.
The Sinn Fein representative said: “The designation of Larne as a hub is the ideal opportunity to develop an economic strategy for the East, South and North Antrim areas, including the large rural population within the council area.
“As the second largest port in the North, we need to develop the opportunities presented in business and tourism that will allow us to reverse the economic decline of the area.
“Hubs are towns that have unique selling points and joining hubs together in clusters allow these clusters to avail of services that would be unaffordable as single towns.
“The cluster of Larne, Ballymena and Antrim would present us with transport infrastructure of an airport, deep water port and road network only rivalled by greater Belfast in attracting inward investment.
“It is therefore crucial that the these towns come together and develop a master plan that can maximise the benefits of clustering. I will be looking to include a specific strategy that develops the rural communities within this framework.”