Michael Holmes, who is CEO of Hope365 Ethiopia, a charity which helps street children in the country, has said the ongoing works in Ballyclare’s Harrier Way car park, which are set to run until September, have been “awful” for the worthy cause.
A full closure of the car park, which has been operational since June 6, is expected to run for a number of weeks before the partial reopening of the facility.
Mr Holmes said: “We only found out that the car park, which is at the rear of our Main Street shop, was to close on June 6 when a letter was hand delivered on June 1, the last day of trading before the Jubilee Bank Holiday.
“We picked this site to make it easily accessible for people dropping off goods to the charity shop, because they can park at Harrier Way.
“Since the closure started, we have noticed a real decline in footfall and the number of items being donated to the store.
“There had been a lull during the May Fair due to the car park being closed, but then without any consultation, it has now been closed and will remain closed for weeks.”
Hope365 supports more than 300 children at a school in Ethiopia, as well as a transition centre and homes for orphans. They also cover the costs of teaching staff and psychologists.
Due to the decline in donations during the closure, concerns have been raised about the charity’s services in Africa.
Mr Holmes explained: “We operate in Ballyclare as well as at The Junction in Antrim. Ballyclare would be the main branch for accepting donations and we’d take items from there to Antrim. The reduction in the number of items being donated at Ballyclare will impact on the funds being raised at Antrim.
“In Ballyclare, people are going to other charity shops because they can’t get parked at Harrier Way. There are signs saying the car park is closed and they are being directed to other car parks. Harrier Way itself is open, but people are making the assumption that if the car park is closed, the road through it is also closed.
“We always operate on the edge and these next couple of months during the car park closure could cause us difficulties when it comes to sending money to Ethiopia if we don’t make our targets. The shops are a key part of our fundraising efforts. We’ve other ways of generating funds for the charity, but we need everything working well together to keep getting our targets to send to Africa.”
Commenting on the closure, a spokesperson for Antrim and Newtownabbey Council said: “A letter was issued to traders and residents on June 1, stating the improvement works at Harrier Way car park would commence on June 6 and last for around 10-12 weeks. Phase one entails a full closure of the car park from June 6 until mid-July and phase two will see a partial reopening from mid-July until early September.
“Recipients were informed that alternative free parking would be available at Market Square Car Park and Sixmile Leisure Centre.
“The council has taken steps to proactively communicate these alternative parking arrangements, including distributing around 250 flyers to the immediate area surrounding the car park; social media posts; signage around the car park; and AA road signs directing motorists to Sixmile LC car park and pedestrian AA signs from the car park to the town centre.
“Enquiries have been received from two traders in the area and from the adjacent primary school. We are unaware of any other enquiries.
“The car park is being enhanced to address public health and safety concerns and night time anti-social behaviour issues, improve lighting to meet current standards and provide wider parking bays to cater for today’s larger cars.”