Lisburn city is becoming a story of political neglect and failure

A GROWING number of the Lagan Valley electorate believe our mainstream political parties are not on their side.

As they struggle against the economic downturn, many feel their interests are ignored in the debates taking place in the Assembly.

The decade long effort to achieve planning permission for the John Lewis store is a case in point.

Our ruling classes feel it would damage Belfast’s retail offering and unsurprisingly a Belfast MLA, Alex Atwood consigns the application to the dustbin.

The First Minister Peter Robinson fumes that the decision will be taken not by Mr. Atwood but by the Executive.

But what has he done to facilitate that? Why the delay? Why does Lisburn Council have to threaten judicial review if the politicians were on our side and meant what they say?

Meanwhile shops in Lisburn continue to close and the location of the highest footfall - Bow Street Mall -is also being hit.

These closures are reducing footfall even further with a possible domino effect.

We may be called a city but the centre of Lisburn is in a much worse state now than when we were a Market town and unless something is done to increase footfall it will become very difficult to attract the retail investment that is needed.

The vast majority of the people east of Lambeg see Belfast as their natural retail attraction.

We have 9,000 people commuting to Belfast each day in a further boost to that city’s economy.

So what has Stormont and our MLA’s done to redeem the situation? They denied us the International Stadium. They denied us the Basketball Centre of Excellence. They are determined to deny us John Lewis.

Not one of our local MLA’s voted against the 50% increase, from £60 to £90 for parking offences and the red-coated bounty hunters are driving shoppers out of town.

Landlords are being left with properties they cannot let - even at nil rent and are penalised by having to pay 50% of the rates bill for shops that earn them no money and which cannot be sold.

The madness of moving the Health Centre from its present site will do enormous damage to the footfall and further increase the number of vacant shops.

Of course we must recognise what the Assembly members have done, apart from increasing their own salaries - they have procured European money for a facility at the Maze site which many claim will be used as a focal point for the glorification of terrorism.

Lisburn has become the story of political neglect and failure and voters may well be coming to the conclusion that they have placed their bets on the wrong horses.

Councillor Ronnie Crawford