MLA calls for ‘creative thinking’ to revitalise towns

Lagan Valley MLA and SDLP High Street Renewal Spokesperson Pat Catney has called for creative thinking to revitalise town and city centres.

Pat Catney MLA, SDLP
Pat Catney MLA, SDLP

Mr Catney called for a joined-up approach to restore centres to the heart of communities across the North.

Lagan Valley MLA Mr Catney said: “Our town and city centres have undergone a massive transformation over the past few decades.

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“They were once the port of call for everyone in our society, young and old would gather to shop, socialise or relax.

“However, in recent years we have seen many household names disappear from our high street as more and more businesses move online.

“If we want to reverse this trend and restore our town centres to once again be the hub of our communities then we need creative thinking to adapt them for modern life.

“There are major challenges we must address. Rates in the North are significantly higher than elsewhere on these islands, while online retailers get away with unfair cost advantages.

“We also have to make our urban centres more attractive, not just as retail destinations, but for a leisure package that includes cafes, restaurants, cinemas and theatres.

“We must keep investing in public spaces, including green areas which look good, contain public art, and are properly maintained. We need to see further pedestrianisation, wider pavements and ensure consumers feel safe by sensitively tackling the challenges that plague our centres.

“One of those is to bring our population back into our urban centres and convince the retail sector that the future doesn’t lie out of town.

“If we are going to wean people away from their Amazon addiction we must create vibrant cities and towns that cater to people living in the area and make them attractive to tourists and visitors.”