Local businesses have expressed anger and disbelief after a mobile billboard promoting a Belfast shopping complex was installed in the heart of Derry’s city centre yesterday.
The large advertisement was set up close to the entrance to the city’s Tourist Information Office between Guildhall Square and Waterloo Place yesterday morning.
It is understood the advert for Victoria Square Shopping Centre was removed shortly after local officials intervened.
Derry City & Strabane District Council have confirmed that planning permission was not sought, and is now investigating the incident.
Several local businesses yesterday said they were shocked that such an advert was placed on such a prominent site surrounded by rate-paying Derry traders, many of whom have come together to try to promote shopping local.
Erin Kearney from Cooley’s Jeweller’s on Shipquay Street, said: “If someone was to put this in Belfast city centre promoting Derry there would be uproar. I was shocked by the size of it.
“There’s nothing wrong in going to Belfast to shop but you can’t promote taking away from local traders. Someone has agreed this at the end of the day and I think someone has to answer for it.”
Mrs. Catherine Kearney, owner of ‘The Gift Box’ on Shipquay Street, said: “I’m gobsmacked they have actually done what they have done!”
While stressing that it was normal for people to diversify their shopping and to visit Belfast and other cities, Catherine added: “You wouldn’t see at City Hall a big sign saying ‘Shop in Derry’.
“Local businesses are struggling, I don’t think anybody would say any different. Within the city centre we are actively trying to get people to shop local. Put a big sign there saying, ‘Shop local for Christmas’.”
Kiera Duddy, owner of The ‘Picked Duck’ Cafe on Shipquay Street, meanwhile said: “When I saw that this morning, I thought, ‘would you get away with that in Belfast?’
“This was sitting right beside ‘Visit Derry’ and it comes at a time when we are trying to keep it local and support each other. Thankfully it was gone before 9.45 am.”
A spokesperson for Derry City & Strabane District Council confirmed that they were aware of the issue.
She said: “Planning permission was not sought for the erection of an inflatable sign in the city centre and officers are investigating the issue.
A spokesperson for Victoria Square Shopping Centre in Belfast said yesterday they had no comment to make regarding the matter.
Kiera Duddy, meanwhile, praised the partnership work involved in the ‘Independent Derry’ initiative, which was set up to promote Derry businesses.
Independent Derry have also set up a £10 card valid for one year that can be purchased online at www.independentderry.co.uk or in person at RoCo Hair, Yellowmoon Clothing, Spaghetti Junction, St Jude Eatery, The Pickled Duck Cafe, Guildhall Taphouse or the Tourist Information Centre.
The card rewards people for shopping local, with discounts and offers in over 50 independent businesses around our city.
The council meanwhile has launched a major marketing campaign to promote shopping in the city and district over the festive season.
As part of this, a Winterland Market showcasing the best of Derry craft, food and drink will take place in the city centre from Thursday December 14 to Sunday December 17.
The Winterland Market will feature up to 30 local traders and is aimed at showcasing the best of local and visiting craft arts, gifts, food and drink.
A key attraction for the kids will be the presence of Bjorn the Bear, a life-sized, interactive polar creature.