‘Business as usual’ – Local businesses express delight as city centre disruption ends

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Monday, June 25th, 2012
Business, Community, News

Local businesses in the Monaghan Street, Merchants Quay and Hill Street area of the city have expressed their delight that the disruption caused by the Public Realm Scheme has passed and it is now very much ‘business as usual’.

The work, designed to improve the area, involved installing new kerbing, paving, street furniture and tree planting, as well as new decorative street lighting.

Throughout the public realm scheme, believed to have cost around £1.8m, there was widespread disruption caused in the area, with long traffic jams and closed roads a frequent sight.

Many local businesses were angered at the disruption, with many claiming to fall victim to a dramatic decline in sales and footfall.

Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland spoke several months ago about the scheme. “This major investment is designed to target areas that were perceived as uninteresting and unattractive and will help inject a vibrancy back into the heart of the city centre, making it a better place to live, work and visit.”

He continued, “In the current economic climate the scheme will also provide much needed employment for the local construction industry. This work will give Hill Street and Monaghan Street a welcome boost and reinvigorate the historical heart of the city, improving trading conditions and encouraging private sector investment.” Emotions however, ran high as businesses in the area suffered throughout the scheme. Back in March, Sinn Fein’s Brendan Curran chaired a meeting which was attended by many of those businesses affected. Speaking after the meeting to Newry Times, Curran said, “I have never witnessed such large numbers of shopkeepers attending a council meeting but traders in the vicinity of these road works have had their patience tested.” Local businesses are adamant however, that everything is back to normal and punters are returning in their droves. Graeme Finegan, proprietor of Grounded Coffee, spoke to Newry Times about the disruption but insisted that he is confident the area will remain a vibrant and exciting avenue for people in the local community. Graeme said, “It’s been a tough few months, but now that both streets are opened up and we can see the improvements that have been made I have no doubt that foot fall will return and the Newry public will come back and visit and more importantly, support local independent business!” Sean Gaffney, of McParland’s Hardware Store echoed Graeme’s sentiments. He said, “The past few months have been quite hard, the disruption during the work made it difficult for everyone. “Now that both streets are up and running you can see quite an improvement in the appearance of the area and business is starting to get back to normal. Hopefully the improvements will encourage people to visit and help support local business.”
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