Town is on the up

Charles Gardiner. INLM1611-154gc
Charles Gardiner. INLM1611-154gc
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LURGAN’S long established tradition as a niche market town has helped it combat the economic downturn, according to the chair of Lurgan Forward.

A study by Lisney released this week showed towns like Portadown, Belfast, Lisburn and Bangor had been hit hard by vacant units. Craigavon’s shop vacancy rate is one of the lowest in Northern Ireland at 9.1%.

Although Lurgan wasn’t included in the study Lurgan Forward conducted a survey of its own which found the town compared favourably in terms of vacancies.

Chair of Lurgan Forward Charlie Gardiner said whenever they surveyed the town in June the vacancy rate was in around 11 per cent. This is well below the Northern Ireland average of 19 per cent and is similar to towns like Newtownabbey, Cookstown and Omagh.

He said: “Downstairs retail was something like seven or eight per cent while the upstairs retail vacancy rate was about 13 to 14 per cent. This gives us an overall rate somewhere between 10 and 11 per cent.

“Since June 2012 when the survey was completed things have got even better.”

Mr Gardiner explained what Lurgan Forward were doing to attract new businesses to the town: “We’ve been getting funding from DSD and council,” he said.

“With the DSD funding the business community has been given a big influence as to how the money will be spent.

“We’ve been painting and fixing up derelict buildings to make them a better prospect and we’re pleased to have a number of new businesses moved in. We’ve also launched the ‘Friendly Face of Lurgan’ brochure.”

He added: “Because Lurgan is a niche town we haven’t been hit as hard as towns like Portadown which a few years ago was booming with big name companies.

“It’s these big names who have suffered the most in recent times while smaller, independent retailers have hung on in there.

“It’s still a difficult trading environment, but the town is on the up.”