Derry has become a 'ghost town' at night warns Councillor as ideas to boost evening economy examined

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Derry has become a ‘ghost town’ at night a local Councillor has said with the local authority now examining ways to attract more people into the city centre, Strabane and other areas.

Some examples from elsewhere and suggestions to boost footfall included in a new report are artistic rain shelter installations and covered stages, illuminated public sculptures and water features and even an urban beach. Others include illuminated parks and covered markets.

Council’s Director of Business and Culture, Stephen Gillespie, gave Councillors an opportunity to give feedback on the early stage work undertaken to date at a Business and Culture Committee meeting on Tuesday, January 16.

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It followed an earlier Council motion to set up an Evening Sector Taskforce, which would make a “focused and concerted effort to enhance the city’s attractiveness as an evening and night-time destination”.

Derry view from the City Walls.Derry view from the City Walls.
Derry view from the City Walls.

The motion noted that, despite being Ireland’s fourth largest city, Derry’s evening and night-time economy had “untapped potential”.

The motion stated: “Derry City, Strabane and the wider council area has much to offer both locals and visitors, especially through showcase events such as Halloween, the Jazz Festival and the Maritime Festival. However, the city shuts down after 6pm with only a limited range of cafes and other amenities available, and even fewer which do not involve the consumption of alcohol.”

Thew motion called for the Taskforce to examine in more detail how other cities and towns on the island and beyond have expanded their nighttime sectors, and overcome challenges such as safety, availability of transport and suitability for different age groups.

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Councillors were told on Tuesday that extensive consultation has taken place, but that this is only a start, with much more detailed and extensive discussions needed to develop a comprehensive strategy for the council.

The Guildhall in Derry.The Guildhall in Derry.
The Guildhall in Derry.

Research to date has included examining what other cities around the world have done and the different approaches that have been taken.

A slideshow presentation outlined how three areas, Derry city centre, the riverfront and Strabane, have been identified as those where population and footfall give the best opportunities for growth which ties in with the still pending £250m City Deal.

Derg UUP Alderman Derek Hussey highlighted a night time economy summit taking place next month in Manchester, which could provide officers with useful information.

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“Some of their speakers are internationally known,” Alderman Hussey said. “From New York, Australia and major UK cities.

“I’d be surprised if officers didn’t seek an attendance, which would be extremely well-costed. They should take the opportunity to engage.”

Foyleside Sinn Féin Councillor Grace Uí Niallais said Derry was a “ghost town” at night, and action was needed.

She added that, considering the district’s current financial situation, sources of funding could be sought elsewhere.

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“We could look at short-term solutions; local businesses who open at night could come together, under officers, to discuss ways forward, and businesses could be promoted by Council’s social media.

“Anything that can be created organically, without costing a lot of money, would be great.”

Mr Gillespie said he has reached out to the Department for Communities (DfC) to discuss a joint consultancy.

He also said officers would be “very open” to local groups “pushing the message” that venues and services are opening in the evening.

Andrew Balfour,

Local Democracy Reporter.