Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council recently spearheaded a major interactive conference designed to build a fresh focus and mobilise efforts to accelerate transformation, investment and regeneration in the borough’s city and town centres.
Drawing in expertise from local retail leaders, town centre champions and regeneration experts – including award-winning architect, broadcaster and academic Piers Taylor – this informative event addressed head on both the challenges and the opportunities that lie ahead in a collaborative, investment-led approach.
Celebrating the substantial achievements of recent years, including millions of pounds of investment in regeneration-led, environmental infrastructure development and public realm schemes, more than 80 key stakeholders aligned to focus on making new progress across all key areas.
Only last month, Portadown secured the Champion High Street Award for Northern Ireland in the annual Great British High Street Awards.
Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Cllr Julie Flaherty, said: “Our city, town centres and high streets are dynamic places that offer a rich mix of uses including retail, service uses, and residential. They are at the heart of our communities and therefore remain fundamental to our future economic growth. Bringing together our best minds and committed stakeholders with an active interest in improving their vitality has enabled us to examine new innovative approaches to further supporting and championing our city and town centres.
“Working together in partnership means that all of us can confidently and collectively ensure that our growing city and town centres remain vibrant places where residents, business people and visitors alike want to live, invest, spend their time and money.”
Attendees also learned new ideas and approaches from keynote speaker Piers Taylor, whose major BBC Two series, ‘The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes’, aired for a second series this year. An award-winning architect, Piers has gained a reputation for innovative design and construction and actively promotes town centre renewal and regeneration-led activity.
Council Chief Executive, Roger Wilson, added: “Given today’s changing retail landscape, high streets need to adapt in order to survive and succeed. The successful town centres of the future need to be diverse, accessible, modern and attractive. By better co-ordinating our efforts and striking the right balance between creativity, access, sustainability and investment, we can ultimately improve the competitiveness, attractiveness and vitality of the borough’s city and town centres. This fast-paced, engaging event has shown that we are ambitious and have the drive, ideas and passion to accelerate change.”
Local entrepreneur Caroline O’Neill, who founded DIGG Childrenswear, also addressed the audience, providing valuable insights and strategies on how independent town centre retail success can benefit people, the economy and wider communities. Caroline recently scooped the prestigious ‘Retail Campaign Award’ at this month’s Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) Awards – a major achievement given that she was up against many big name retailers.
Criona Collins, Director of Retail at Northern Ireland commercial property consultants Lambert Smith Hampton, spoke of the immediate challenges faced by town centres and the opportunities ahead and welcomed the collaborative approach being taken by the council.
The event was hosted by business expert, broadcaster and entrepreneur Jamie Delargy.