Larne’s Point Street traders despair as road closed for public realm

The Big Sandwich Company owner Melvin Wilson in front of an almost-deserted Point Street. INLT-21-701-con
The Big Sandwich Company owner Melvin Wilson in front of an almost-deserted Point Street. INLT-21-701-con

Point Street traders say their businesses have been severely affected after the road was closed for a month due to public realm work.

The local business people spoke out after the thoroughfare from Broadway to Point Street was closed from May 9 until June 10 due to health and safety issues.

Owner of The Big Sandwich Company cafe Melvin Wilson says his trade has plummeted by 45-50 per cent since the road closure, and that he is considering temporarily laying off a part-time staff member until the road reopens.

”I don’t want to suspend a member of staff but there isn’t the work there to support them,” he revealed.

“I think the council should have consulted with businesses before this closure.

“A lot of our customers are elderly but no-one can park outside. At the very least they could have put up signs to let people know the businesses are still trading.”

Meanwhile, co-owner of The Flower Room Patricia McPherson has seen business slump by a quarter.

“We rely heavily on passing trade and our trade has dropped about 25 per cent in the past two weeks,” she stated.

“It worries me about how we are going to survive being interrupted during peak trading season as it will be a busy period with weddings.

“I can drop off deliveries but customers can’t park outside to collect orders. Elderly and disabled people can’t park further away and carry their goods.”

Patricia was sceptical as to whether the public realm plan would benefit the town’s side streets.

“I think the council needs to come up with a scheme to regenerate Larne’s peripheral streets,” she continued.

“Main Street will get all the benefit. When we talk about boosting Larne it needs to be the whole town.”

Both firms say they did not receive a visit from the council’s contractor Earney Contracts’ Public Liaison Officer. They are now calling for rates relief to compensate for lost business.

Chair of Larne Traders Forum John Shannon encouraged shoppers to keep supporting the town centre.

“Larne Town Centre is looking great as work progresses on the public realm improvements,” he said.

“While there continues to be some parking restrictions in the town centre, there is plenty of nearby car parking available; some of it is free while the pay car parks only cost £1 for five hours’ parking.

“Everyone is still open for business in the town centre and looking forward to a great summer ahead.”

A council spokesperson added: “The road closure will enable the contractors to ensure the safety of shoppers and pedestrians as well as enabling work to be completed more quickly. Any ratepayer who considers that their business has been adversely affected by such works can seek a reduction in the Net Annual Value of their premises, which would reduce their rates. Businesses affected by the closure (including the two mentioned) were visited and spoken with on April 28.

“The public realm scheme extends to the part of Point Street at the rear of the Broadway open space area outside Murrayfield Shopping Centre only.

“It is anticipated that the completed scheme will benefit the whole town centre by encouraging increased footfall and providing high quality open space for activities and events at Broadway. However, when the extent of the scheme was agreed, it was noted that a second phase of public realm works for areas in Point Street, Lower Cross Street, Dunluce Street, Pound Street and parts of High Street would be desirable in the future.”