DUP STICK TO THEIR GUNS ON MARKET

THE DUP contingent on Banbridge District Council have expressed their concerns about the proposed Sunday market in the town.

Their comments come in response to an open letter which the Leader carried several weeks ago from local businessman Drew Gregg, expressing his disappointment that the proposal 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.

The joint statement, which was signed by Councillors David Herron, Paul Rankin, Junior McCrum, Hazel Gamble and Jim McElroy, says, “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 that 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. 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.”

The statement also added that DUP councillors have lobbied to ensure that the Council work with the Outlet Centre Management, to ensure that the town centre is promoted to Outlet customers. They also said they had lobbied Executive Ministers to ensure Banbridge received it’s fair share of public realm works, “to help make Banbridge an even more attractive place to shop and do business.”

They added, “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.”