Town needs its own manager

Harry Hamilton. INLM4910-601con
Harry Hamilton. INLM4910-601con

LURGAN needs a full time campaigner working solely on the town’s behalf.

This is the view of Harry Hamilton, a board member of Lurgan Forward as a new vision for the town was launched.

Mr Hamilton feels that since Lurgan lost a full time manager the focus has left the town and more needs to be done to promote our best interests.

He said he understood Craigavon Council had a full time manager for both Portadown and Lurgan, however, he felt one manager for both towns was insufficient.

The comments came as Lurgan Forward launched an ambitious plan to promote the town with a blueprint to encourage physical and economic regeneration .

Mr Hamilton said: “We have to take control and not be reliant on others to get things done.”

He said confidence needs to be restored and there needed to be belief in ourselves to deliver for the whole community.

He said there needed to be more networking particularly between all the community groups in Lurgan so that all could help each other and to create a stronger sense of community.

With the Restore project, Lurgan Forward aim to be more proactive in targeting potential tenants for vacant premises.

“There are vacant premises where the landlords are open to negotiations to reduce rates,” said Mr Hamilton.

“We want to marry up potential tenants with landlords and help iron out any issues,” he said.

“Within a year we want to create 80 per cent occupancy, “ said Mr Hamilton.

And he revealed the seeds are being sown for a Lurgan Festival of music poetry and sport to help create a better sense of community.

Mr Hamilton said: “The whole town appears to be sharing in our enthusiasm and commitment to the revitalisation of Lurgan.

“It’s time to get back to the basics of what community is about and to focus on the destination and not be put off by the difficulties of the journey.

“We believe the role of Lurgan Forward is to offer leadership, vision and a platform to which our community can come in.

“We intend to rebuild the image of Lurgan as something we all can be proud of – creating a society that celebrates our differences and champions our success.”

Another member of Lurgan Forward Charlie Gardiner admitted the town had an image problem: “While there are still some political and cultural issues to be addressed, Lurgan has made phenomenal strides towards inclusivity in the last few years and we’re already seeing the signs of fresh investment coming into the town.”

Lurgan’s location and infrastructure, he said, had been central to attracting new industry into the area: “There has been growing manufacturing diversity with key sectoral specialists in food, plastics, carpet manufacturing and textiles.”

He said: “The area also has an excellent export-oriented manufacturing base with an impressive record of foreign companies moving into the area and expanding.

“Key growth business sectors in the town include all aspects of the construction, hospitality, distribution, and retail sectors, as well as investment, research, and development in knowledge based industries in information technology, high tech communications and software development and engineering.

“It is about selling the image and reality of Lurgan more in terms of our historical assets and not in terms of our historical divisions.”

Lurgan, he said, is bucking the Northern Ireland trend with higher retail occupancy rates, growing shop footfall, increasing inquiries about inward investment and a greater percentage of employment than the regional average.