Taskforce to boost Derry night economy - 'It has taken years to make Belfast one of the "go to" cities for nightlife'

Derry City and Strabane District Council will set up an evening sector task force in an effort to energise the city and district’s night time potential.

The taskforce will examine how it can learn from other cities and towns in a bid to expand the night time economy as well as looking at challenges to overcome around safety, availability of transport, suitability for different age groups and the provision of no-cost activities.

Foyleside SDLP Councillor Lilian Seenoi-Barr brought forward the motion saying: “When we talk about the night time economy and nightlife there are a couple of things I would like to highlight.

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“Vibrant night time economies do not happen by accident. Innovation, creation, planning and partnership are all key elements to creating a destination that can delight users after dark.

Lilian Seenoi-Barr.

"Derry has so much to offer both locals and visitors including the finest walled city in Western Europe but the fact remains that come 6pm much of the city centre goes into a deep sleep, especially between Sunday and Wednesday.

“That’s no reflection on local businesses who have done so much to rejuvenate the city centre in recent years. This motion is about enhancing what has been already done to revitalise the city’s nightlife.

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“For many, Belfast, which is only 70 miles down the road, the city only really comes to life after dark and this is no accident. It has taken years of hard work involving many agencies to make Belfast one of the ‘go to’ cities across this island for nightlife.

“I have noted Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council is currently working on a five-year evening economy strategy that will include a comprehensive framework for its six main town centres. I would envisage something similar from the taskforce that this motion proposes.”

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Supporting the motion, Sinn Féin Councillor Conor Heaney acknowledged the ‘good work that has already been done’.

He added: “As we try to build our way out of Covid can we do things better? Of course we can. Issues like getting out of the city centre at night and improving the look of the city centre at night all need to be looked at.

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“We need to be careful we aren’t replacing the work that has already been done by the High Street task force which was established by the Executive.”

‘Build it and they will come’ stated UUP Alderman Ryan McCready, adding: “We need to generate confidence within the local small businesses, retailers, coffee shops, all the things these business people and young entrepreneurs. It's about giving them that confidence and certainty as a local authority to be brave and challenge how things are done in the evening.”

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DUP Alderman Hilary McClintock said it was ‘a very important issue'.

She continued: “Our night time economy has traditionally revolved around the consumption of alcohol but I know valiant efforts have been made pre-Covid to ensure we have cafés and coffee shops opening on a rota basis at night.

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“We are living in very challenging times, both financially and presently during the pandemic. Our tourists need a night time offering but any growth in the night time economy has to be things embraced by local people as well to make them sustainable.”

Agreeing with the previous speaker, Alliance Councillor Rachael Ferguson felt that ‘we are missing a trick’.

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“We had an amazing rota with some cafés and shops opening up in the evening pre-Covid and we could explore that again.”

Welcoming the motion, PBP Councillor Maeve O’Neill added: “This will be very effective in trying to develop the city centre in the evening time.”

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The motion passed with one abstention.