‘Save our town centre’

Pictured at a DSD 'High Street Meeting' at Coleraine Town Hall on Monday.
Pictured at a DSD 'High Street Meeting' at Coleraine Town Hall on Monday.

TOWN Centre retailers have been discussing solutions to deal with the economic down turn in Coleraine.

At a meeting in Coleraine Town Hall on Monday morning, traders were invited to give their views to a DSD High Street Task Force.

The task force has been set up by Minister Nelson McCausland following a report by High Street guru Mary Portas.

The objective of the task force is to review the support the Department provides and offer solutions to the difficult trading conditions in towns across the Province.

Gwyneth McQuiston of the Diamond Shopping Centre pointed out that when Clinton Cards closes, there will be no less than seven empty units in a row in the centre. Other empty units in the town centre include the sites of the former JJB Sports and D2 stores.

There were many issues raised at the meeting including out of town shopping and the financial implication of rates on traders.

“We don’t have the luxury of convenient car parking,” said one retailer who attended the meeting.

Another suggested that free parking for two hours in town centre car parks would encourage shoppers into Coleraine.

“Most people can get into town and do what they need to do in two hours, “ said the retailer. “At the minute, people are only paying for one hours parking and rushing in and out.”

On the issue of car parking, another attendee suggested drop off points for taxis on streets like New Row to enable easier access to the town centre.

Another suggestion was for free parking during the low season or to encourage Christmas shoppers by introducing a free parking day each week in the run up to Christmas.

The issue of multi-nationals and how their profits are spent was also highlighted.

One business owner said: “Multi-nationals come in and sell everything. But how are their profits spent?

“An independent retailer will spend their profits locally, on a night out or if they’ve had a good year a new car - money will be put back into the local economy. Multi-nationals will divide their profits out to shareholders who could be anywhere in the world.”

Other issues that were discussed included the absence of an evening economy in Coleraine town centre, discounts for bus trips and the possible expansion of the Causeway Speciality Market which brings people into the town centre.

On the whole, those in attendance agreed that a more joined up approach was needed between retailers, government departments and council to ensure that the town centre was being marketed to its full potential.

REPORT: Nichola Forgrave