Councillors lobby for local traders

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Local councillors have renewed calls for a cohesive strategy to assist Derry’s retailers.

Sinn Féin councillor Maeve McLaughlin has written to the Minister of Social Development, Nelson McCausland, expressing concern over the timescale of implementing Derry’s retail strategy.

Explaining her concerns, colr. McLaughlin said; “This piece of work was commissioned a number of years ago by Ilex, Urban Regeneration Company in conjunction with Department of Social Development and Derry City Council.

“I am very concerned that in the absence of any statutory planning guidance that delivery has been slow at a time when our city centre is suffering greatly. Many city centre traders I speak to on a daily basis are finding it hard to keep their businesses going. The strategy allows us to move the debate to the types of goods that our current city centre can attract.”

Colr. McLaughlin said more needs to be done to help struggling local retailers and called on the minister to make his views on the matter public.

“I am seeking the Ministers views as it’s his department within the context of urban regeneration powers driving this strategy.

“I understand that Department of Social Development used this policy framework in the context of Belfast City centre and in particular Victoria Market development

It’s very important that we must use all in our power to assist the local retail sector in this time of great need,” she said.

Meanwhile, SDLP councillor Eamon McCauley also repeated his call for an dedicated promotion strategy to be put in place in Derry to support independent retailers.

Colr. McCauley as previously called for an independent retail week to be held in Derry to help smaller businesses.

A similar event was held in Belfast last year and involved additional promotion for small and medium sized enterprises and a campaign for people to shop locally and support independent traders.

The SDLP colr. said hosting such an event in Derry would give a much-needed boost to independent retailers.

At Tuesday’s meeting, as officers from Council’s development department briefed councillors on the economic development strategy for the year ahead, Colr. McCauley asked if provision had been made in the rates allocations for hosting an independent retail week next year.

Council officials said the independent retail week fits in with several of the indicators contained in the economic development plans for next year and that money could be made available to fund such a move.