Larne traders’ takings ‘down by half’ in wake of Storm Desmond

Part of Dunluce Street remains sealed off due to ongoing safety concerns. INLT 51-685-CON
Part of Dunluce Street remains sealed off due to ongoing safety concerns. INLT 51-685-CON

Traders on Larne’s storm-stricken Dunluce Street claim they face a bleak Christmas unless urgent steps are taken to make the area safe.

High winds whipped up by Storm Desmond caused substantial damage to a number of buildings in the area recently, with roofs torn off premises and debris strewn across the street.

In the aftermath of the destruction, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has been working closely with property owners to carry out risk assessments of the storm-damaged premises.

But almost two weeks later, part of the street remains sealed off due to ongoing safety concerns.

The local authority confirmed it has now issued dangerous structures notices to the owners of two properties.

A council spokesman said: “Should the buildings not be made safe within an appropriate timeframe, the council will seek to do the work in default to remove the risks to the public. Council would then seek to recover costs from the building owners.”

In the mean time, traders say they are being hit hard by the ongoing disruption – with some claiming they are losing up to 50 per cent of their takings.

Dean Hodge from T McKeen butchers said: “This could not have happened at a worse time. We have about 1,000 turkeys to get out over the next week, and our customers can’t even get parked on this street to come in and collect them.

“When people see the barriers they assume the street is closed. We are losing out on passing trade and have noticed a big drop in footfall and in trade.”

Paul McIlhinney, director of E-Cigs and Alternatives, told the Times his takings had “halved” when compared to the same period last year.

He added: “These couple of weekS leading up to Christmas are the most important for high street traders, as we rely on the takings to tide us over during the next couple of lean months.”

Denise McClenaghan of Sew Good fabric shop also said she had noticed a “massive difference” in trade.

“Many of my customers are elderly or disabled, and so the street being closed to traffic has meant they are unable to gain access,” she added.

The ongoing situation at Dunluce Street has been further compounded by the presence of asbestos at one of the damaged premises.

However, the council spokesperson offered assurances that the material poses “no increased risk to the public, but needs to be dealt with appropriately”.

Despite the disruption, all businesses on Dunluce Street remain open.

East Antrim MLA Gordon Lyons, who visited traders on the street recently, said: “Businesses obviously depend on pre-Christmas trade and it is disappointing that they have been hit so badly.

“I think that it is important that the message goes out that Dunluce Street is very much open for business and I would encourage people to shop local ahead of Christmas.”