‘Joined-up approach needed to stop centres becoming like ghost towns’

Niall McConkey
Niall McConkey

GLENGORMLEY and Ballyclare traders have welcomed savings made in a rates relief scheme for small businesses set up earlier this year - but they have urged the government to do more to help small independent traders defeat the economic downturn.

It’s thought around 10 per cent of business in the area have benefitted from the scheme which gives small independent traders a 20 per cent discount on their rates.

The Department of Finance has announced a review of the scheme to assess its costs and if it could be extended to support more businesses.

Ballyclare Chamber of Trade said the scheme offered much-needed help to local traders during these challenging times.

“However it is important that all town centre policies from the various Stormont departments work together to help town centres across the country,” said Niall McConkey, Past President of the chamber.

“There needs to be an overall strategy to support town centres which not only applies a fair and reasonable rates levy to the property but ensures adequate free car parking on and off the street, robust planning policies to protect town centres and a regeneration plan which ensures that our provincial towns do not become ghost towns,” he added.

Glengormley Traders’ Association secretary, Nigel Hamilton said many businesses had benefitted from the savings offered by the scheme.

He said: “We are continuing to inform members of the potential reductions they could experience in their rates by applying and being included in the relief programme.

“Some of our members are saving very useful pounds and pence which they can then plough into their businesses.

“At a recent meeting with Finance Minister Sammy Wilson our parent body NIIRTA encouraged him to go further and extend the scheme which will provide even more small businesses with much needed support with their rates bill.”

“We accept that extending this scheme is not the remedy to all our members’ financial problems but it will assist struggling small traders, alongside a fair deal in car parking, planning policy and a new joined up approach by the Executive on town centre regeneration.

“Further progress toward sustainable growth can be achieved but it is proving to be a rocky road to recovery,” explained Nigel Hamilton.