Council changes mind on grant for £7m business plan

Brian Walker in the Town Centre. INPT13-218.
Brian Walker in the Town Centre. INPT13-218.

The £7m regeneration business project for Thomas Street is back on track – after the reticence of the ABC Council to provide a grant was highlighted in the Portadown Times.

The Times reported last week that the council was, in secret session, holding back on a request from the development group Portadown 2000 for a five-figure grant to prepare the plans for the derelict site of the former Thornton’s Wholesale premises.

At Monday night’s ‘in committee’ session of the council, members recommended a £50,000 hand-out to finance the drawing up of detailed plans for the project, so that it could progress to final design stages. Councillor Mark Baxter (DUP) is reported to have tabled the proposal.

The council had failed to support the grant request, asking for more information. It was underlined that the £7m would be provided by the European Union Peace Four Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund, who provided the £6m funds for the recent revamp at Portadown People’s Park.

It was also stated that the Thomas Street project would probably be the last one financed in Portadown, prior to Brexit.

The Portadown Times understand that 13 projects have been presented from all over the EU to Brussels, with eight due to be chosen.

The overall emphasis will be on office space and start-up industrial units for small businesses, exhibition spaces for cultural and heritage spaces, plus a lecture theatre, auditorium and coffee shop. There will be training and networking facilities, together with arts and drama areas and recreational projects.

People from all backgrounds will be encouraged to take full advantage of the project, which will include an extension of the market at adjacent William Street’s Millennium Court Arts Centre, which is the signature project of Portadown 2000. The plan will link the Thomas Street and William Street projects.

Neither Portadown 2000 nor the council is prepared to comment. But hopes are high the project will make the final Brussels selection.