Dismayed traders are left in the dark

Dismayed traders are left in the dark

6 December 2017

BUSINESS owners at a busy Downpatrick shopping area have hit out after being left in the dark when the town’s Christmas lights were switched on.

Traders at Market Lane say it is bad enough the council has ignored the area, but what really angers them is that they purchased the festive lights that have brought Christmas cheer to the pedestrian area for the past two years.

In 2015 the business owners paid for tubular lighting for the archways at either end of Market Lane, along with netting fitted with festive bulbs, which considerably brightened up the area in the run-up to Christmas.

The lights are still in place and only need to be connected to a power source. The netting was removed by council officials for storage after last Christmas but the local traders have now been told the officials have no idea where the netting is.

John Wilson, of Wilson’s Butchers, said Market Lane links the Irish Street car park with Market Street and carries a huge number of pedestrians.

“The traders at this part of the town are all ratepayers and we are not asking for any grand festive lighting display. We will be more than happy if the lights on the arch were illuminated and the local council can find the netting which covers the walkway so there will be some semblance of Christmas in Market Lane.

“It was the business owners who paid for the lights and all the council have to do is connect them. The irony of all this is that the lights are still in place in the arches as is the electrical supply. We just need someone to connect them up and surely that is not too much to ask?”

Mr Wilson said traders would be happy if just the archways are lit up to show that it is Christmas in Market Lane.

“There are lights across the town which adds to the festive spirit. Given that we paid for the lights outside our premises it would be nice to see them on. At the moment, there is no sign of Christmas in Market Lane apart from a number of window displays,” he said. “We had no lights last year and we don’t know why they have not been switched on this year.”

Barber Paul Mathews said Market Lane traders want the lights switched on and appealed to the local authority to respond, arguing there should be no major issue as the lights and electrical connections are in place.

“Market Lane is dark and if we had the arches illuminated it would help build Christmas spirit at what is one of the busiest locations in Downpatrick town centre. All the businesses are working hard trying to make a living and we would like to see the lights switched on. We class Market Lane as a street, a street which should have some festive lighting,” he said. “When the lights are on, it really enhances the area.”

Kim Harris, who runs the Kim on In cafe, is also keen to see the Christmas lights switched on again.

“The lights were last switched on two years ago and we were really disappointed the area was in darkness in 2016 with no sign of Christmas. While there are festive lights elsewhere, there are none in Market Lane which is disappointing, especially as it is only a matter of connecting them up.

“Market Lane is the main connection between the town centre and the Irish Street car park and the traders want to see these lights illuminated. We hope the council will do all it can to ensure the lights are switched on.”

A Newry, Mourne and Down Council spokesman said the local authority agreed this year that it would provide the same level of Christmas lighting in Downpatrick as it did in 2016.

“As such, this did not include placing Christmas illuminations in Market Lane,” he continued. “The Council is reviewing the activity it undertakes in helping communities celebrate Christmas and as part of this will be open to listen to the views of local communities and the business community.”