Local businesses are being urged to ‘grasp the opportunity’ to revitalise Portadown town centre.
The call comes in the wake of news that Lidl are planning to relocate their store from Armagh Road to High Street Mall as its anchor tenant.
Ulster Unionist Councillor Julie Flaherty welcomed the £4m investment in the mall and said: “This new development, if agreed by the council, will see Lidl become the anchor tenants with further opportunities for existing and new business. As part of the redevelopment the layout will see a new plaza that will help boost town centre retail and improve footfall.”
She went on: “Over the last number of years Portadown centre has received a makeover that has made it an attractive place for people to visit and shop. However, this has never been realised with the lack of opportunity for business due to poor footfall in the town combined with rates that do not make it attractive to set up new ventures.
“There are many things council can do to help revitalise town centres throughout the borough. This redevelopment of a key piece of real estate in the centre of Portadown may help in some way to make the town more appealing for businesses but council must do more to support them if revitalising the town centre is to have an effect.
Cllr Flaherty added, “I meet monthly with the chamber of commence in Portadown - it is a vibrant body with dedicated, enthusiastic group of people who have a great passion and vision for my home town.
“We are all well aware of the problems we face but we are ready to work together to make this work for all of us.
“We have many hurdles to jump, not least the lack of a sitting Assembly and the fact that we cannot thus far avail of some funds that are available for high streets for example, that is for others to look at and search their own consciences about,
“I ran a business on a high street for many years so I have the experience-and also the faith in local business people to take this opportunity and run with it. “Please let us grasp this opportunity for what it is.”
News of the plans was first revealed by DUP MLA Carla Lockhart on Wednesday (September 25) and she described it as “a great result for Portadown”.
Confirming the planned move a spokesperson for Lidl said: “The existing store, on the Armagh Road, opened in 2001 and no longer meets the business needs. Lidl is proposing a move to the High Street Mall in the centre of the town.
“Lidl will seek to take just under half of the former Dunnes Stores unit which will give a sales areas of 1,480 sq.m,, significantly more than the current area of 997 sq.m. Lidl will also have access to 384 car parking spaces versus 80 at present.
Lidl’s regional director Conor Boyle added: “Since 2001 Lidl has proudly traded in Portadown but, as the fastest growing retailer in Northern Ireland, we need to accommodate our growing customer numbers and so we have sought to replace our existing location. Our proposed scheme will regenerate a strategic site in the heart of the town, which has sat vacant for a period of time and we believe we will be able to offer a much improved shopping experience for the years ahead. We look forward to continuing to invest in Portadown and offering shoppers the best value in the market.”
Lidl Northern Ireland opened its first store in Cookstown in 1999. Marking its 20th anniversary this year, the company now has 38 stores and more than 880 employees across the province.