Irish Street traders need consulted about scheme

Irish Street traders need consulted about scheme

9 January 2019

A LEADING politician has backed calls for improved communication with Downpatrick’s business community following a series of pre-Christmas incidents.

Over 50 spaces at the Irish Street car park were temporarily unavailable at what is traditionally the busiest trading week of the year after contractors sealed off an area to allow a large lorry to deliver granite paving stones.  

The move left business owners furious and to compound their frustration, several spaces in Irish Street were sealed off to allow the large lorries to safely turn into the car park.

Contractors also arrived in Market Street just days before Christmas to replace a section of granite paving which led to minor disruption, while much of the nearby Lower Market Street car park was under several feet of water due to flooding.

The granite paving was being transported to Downpatrick ahead of work starting on Monday on a near £700,000 environmental improvement scheme in Irish Street.

Politicians described the temporary loss of parking spaces just days before Christmas as “extremely unfortunate” and insisted that traders should have been told what was happening.

This week, South Down MLA Colin McGrath confirmed he has written to business owners in Irish Street traders in the wake of the pre-Christmas debacle.

He said: “The situation which arose in the run-up to Christmas was something of a perfect storm. Part of Irish Street was sealed off, spaces in the nearby car park were temporarily unavailable, contractors were working in Market Street and much of the Lower Market Street car park was under several feet of water.

“There were various causes for these issues from early delivery of stone pavements for Irish Street works, flood water in the town and emergency work to kerbs, but we must have better coordination between authorities and there must simply be better communication with businesses in the town.”

Mr McGrath said he has written to businesses and forwarded his contact details should there be further issues as a temporary one-way traffic system comes into operation in Irish Street during work on the environmental improvement scheme.

“I have also written to the district’s divisional roads manager outlining my concerns. Newtownards, Bangor or Newry would not face public authority road blockages in the lead up to Christmas. Why should Downpatrick?”

Mr McGrath said he wanted assurances that communication with the business community will improve and that work which has the potential to disrupt businesses will be kept to the absolute bare minimum over the coming weeks in Irish Street.

The Department for Communities and Newry, Mourne and Down Council are jointly funding the environmental improvement scheme which will result in one traffic lane being closed during the work to facilitate the contractor.

The work — which includes new granite footpaths, lighting and street furniture — is due to be completed before the end of the financial year and is designed to help regenerate Irish Street, providing a boost for traders and residents.

Politicians are also confident the scheme can help arrest decline in an area where the presence of the town’s former police base was a major impediment to investment over many years.