Plans to prevent Lismore Comprehensive School pupils from leaving the campus at lunchtime could cause an “economic meltdown” in Craigavon, it has been claimed.
Business people in Tullygally, Moyraverty and Legahory called on Lismore School not to implement the change as it could mark the end of their viability.
Many local traders contacted the paper over the past week since news broke that some students will be banned from leaving the school vicinity during lunchtime.
Businessman Lorne Greene of Nisa in Legahory said it could turn an already deprived area into an “economic no man’s land”.
Many businesses, from shops to takeaways, feel their future is bleak if the lunchtime custom from the schoolchildren is removed, which could have a knock-on effect on other businesses.
Tom Greene of Nisa said, “The Brownlow area is an area of high deprivation. Many businesses rely on the lunchtime trade of the Lismore pupils and without that those businesses could fold.”
He explained that each of the centres at Tullygally, Legahory and Moyraverty do not have passing trade so the school lunch trade is vital for their existence.
The lynchpin of the Legahory centre is the shop, post office and cafe, all of which are used by the students. Lorne said that in the summer these businesses tend to experience a severe slump in trade when the students are on holiday. He added that if these shops are forced to shut then the entire centre would close down.
“This is a small eco system here and it is central that the business from Lismore continues,” he said. “If the pupils aren’t allowed out it will cause absolute mayhem. It will be like an economic nuclear bomb going off in Craigavon.”
Eileen O’Dowd, owner of Kate’s Place cafe, said: “Our business is going to be very badly affected. This school would be 70% of our trade. If we lose that trade it will have the potential to close the business.”
She explained her cafe acts as an alternative school canteen. “I would ask the school not to implement this decision for the sake of the businesses and local community. We do no business in the summer at all and we depend on the school children. I am disappointed they made this decision before consulting with the local community.”
Lisa Crossey, Michelle’s Kitchen, Tullygally said: “The lunchtime trade from the school keeps us ticking over during Winter. Business is bad enough without this. “She (Mrs Kane, principal) is coming from Belfast putting down her rules.
“These shops depend on the business. It should be up to the parents. It would have a devastating effect on the business which is slow enough. The children are putting something back into the local community.
“If this happens all the shops are going to close. We have regulars in here and we know all their names and now some are returning as parents as well.”
Mary Fisher, Moyraverty Shop said: “The kids are vital for our trade. The kebab place across the way closes if the school is closed as there is no point in him opening. “It would be devastating for our trade. It would be a big loss for us”
Jason Greene, Costcutters said: “The school children increase our trade so much so that we need extra staff on. If this decision is implemented our trade would be down by 50% in that hour. I am very disappointed. It could have a very serious economic impact in this area.”
Asham Amin, owner of Hot and Spicy Indian takeaway Tullygally told the Mail: “It the kids are not there, there will be no trade.
“I do not get any outside trade and rely on the children. I close during mid term breaks as there is no point in opening,” said Mr Amin who added that four jobs could go if the decision is implemented.
“We get evening trade but it is the lunctime trade which helps the business. In the summer time we close during the day,” said Mr Amin who has been in business 13 years.
Both new principal Mrs Fiona Kane and acting head Mrs Rosemary Lavery said they intend to bring in a change preventing students from year 9-12 from leaving the campus primarily for health and safety reasons.
There will be a pilot scheme in June and the restrictions will apply formally in September. Year 8 pupils already remain on campus but this would extend to all other students apart from Lower and Upper 6th.
Mrs Lavery explained that the issue of health and safety had been raised over many years but postponed until now. She cited difficulties in controlling what pupils ate and said some returned to school soaking wet.
Mrs Kane added the canteen at Lismore could cater for all the students and there is a packed lunch option.
She added that no other schools permit pupils to leave at lunchtime and the move was backed by the student council and Board of Governors.
“We are not here to provide a livelihood but we are here to provide an education for the children,” said Mrs Kane.