Derry to get the Portas touch

Retail expert Mary Portas could be on her way to Derry to offer advice on the regeneration of the city’s commercial districts.

Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland this week revealed he was taking a number of steps, having considered the Portas review of UK High Streets.

His comments come as DSD pilots a “NI ReStore” programme across the North, the last phase of which is being delivered in Derry.

The Department is working in partnership with the City Centre Initiative and local traders to deliver schemes in Union Hall Place, Bank Place and part of Spencer Road.

The total costs of the scheme are expected to be around £250,000, with various improvements to the shop frontages due to be completed by the end of March.

The DSD minister said he would invite Mary Portas to Northern Ireland to advise on the content of the action plan.

The Portas review made a number of recommendations including improving the management of High Streets with new “town teams”, affordable town centre car parking and disincentives for landlords who leave shops empty.

Derry’s Chamber of Commerce says it has been very interested in the Mary Portas proposals for strengthening city and town centres.

“We would warmly welcome her to this city and our members would be pleased to discuss with her the recommendations that she offers,” said Chamber CEO Sinead McLaughlin.

“These are difficult times for retailers in traditional city and town centres,” she added. “The Chamber of Commerce is working very closely with our retail members to support them in surviving and thriving in these difficult economic circumstances.”