DROMORE’S DUP councillors have pledged to continue working for town-centre regeneration across Banbridge district, this as councillors came under fire over the rejection of a planned Sunday market in neighbouring Banbridge.
Paul Rankin and Hazel Gamble joined their party colleagues in Banbridge and Knockiveagh, among others, in explaining their opposition to the market plan and their favoured approach to boosting town-centre trade not only in Banbridge, but in Dromore and Rathfriland too.
In a joint statement signed the two Dromore councillors as well as councillors David Herron, Junior McCrum and Jim McElroy, the local DUP contingent said, “We understand that those who advocate a Sunday market may do so with a motive to boost business in Banbridge, but we do not believe that a Sunday Market would have this desired effect, with streets closed up with stalls, that could not compete with other markets, such as in Belfast.
“We believe the best way to boost business is to encourage more people to come to Banbridge town and support our shops and businesses, not forgetting our other town centres in Dromore and Rathfriland.
“The Banbridge District’s five DUP councillors, MPs, MLAs and our MEP will continue to work for the regeneration of all our local town centres, making them open and appealing places to shop and we will continue to work for the lowest possible rates burden for our traders.”
The statement came in response to Banbridgebusinessman Drew Gregg’s recent expression of disappointment that the proposed Sunday market had been turned down.
Only four councillors, he said, had responded to an email he had sent to all of the district’s representatives regarding the issue.
Earlier in their statement, the DUP group said, “There is by no means a consensus amongst local traders on this issue and several traders have expressed to us their concerns and opposition to the proposal for a Sunday market in Banbridge town.
“In our opinion, the economic arguments for a Sunday market are debatable, as are the ‘social’ arguments.
“Also, there are many local people who would object to a Sunday market on the basis of religious belief and individual councillors may also take this into consideration, along with the socioeconomic arguments.
“For some individual councillors the issue of Sunday trading is a ‘matter of conscience’ and their own personal decision may also be influenced by their personal religious beliefs.”
The councillors said Banbridge was one of the premier, best kept towns in Northern Ireland, with one of the most varied and attractive town centres in terms of business.
“We believe the best way to support traders is to reduce the financial burdens placed upon them,” they said. “This is why the DUP argued for a freeze in the rates last month.
“We welcome the announcement by the Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson, that the regional rate has been frozen for the remainder of the Assembly term, at the level of inflation.
“We also welcome the minister’s previous announcements regarding the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme and the Enterprise Minister, Arlene Foster’s recent announcement regarding a new £5 million Small Business Loan Fund.”