£76,000 plan for borough at Christmas

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CHRISTMAS events in the borough are set to receive a funding boost of £76,607 from Craigavon Council and the Department of Social Development.

This includes the return of Santa’s Grotto to Lurgan at a cost of £19,000 as well as the annual switch-on event which will include a 12 metre square LED screen.

According to Craigavon Council both switch-on events last year were very successful and they are expecting similar if not larger crowds this year.

They have budgeted for additional security as well as the large LED screen which will allow people further back to see the event without having to surge forward.

Speaking during this week’s council meeting, Councillor Alan Carson said that during last year’s switch-on events the shops in Portadown stayed open late but the shops in Lurgan didn’t. He said this was something he hoped could be remedied this year.

The Santa’s Grotto in Lurgan has received a boost from the DSD’s ReStore funding programme and will have extended opening hours plus an arts and crafts workshop.

Portadown will be getting a speciality Christmas market on December 14 and 15 at a cost of £25,000.

In addition council have agreed to give match funding of £5,000 to private sector businesses in Portadown who have generated £5,000 of their own money to support a campaign to bring shoppers to the town.

It’s understood the partnership is made up of the town’s three shopping centres and the money they’ll be receiving will come from an underspend in the Development Departmental budget.

Sinn Fein’s Johnny McGibbon felt that the move was ‘risky’ and didn’t benefit the entire borough.

He said: “We need to be looking at initiatives that benefit the entire borough. I do acknowledge the merit of the work traders in Portadown are doing though I don’t believe we’re equipped to take risks with taxpayers’ money. It’s one thing risking your own money in a private venture but not ratepayers’ money which doesn’t belong to any of us.

“It isn’t good enough to say we’ll cover it from underspend.”

Development Director Olga Murtagh said: “We would encourage the private sector in Lurgan to come together, but it’s more difficult there because they don’t have any shopping centres.”