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Streets ahead!

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Major plan to make city centre a mecca for shoppers and businesses

 

A MAJOR drive is underway to boost the commercial life of Armagh by regenerating specific areas within the city centre to encourage an influx of new businesses and traders.

 

The city centre is already flourshing compared to similar sized neighbouring towns but the new plans are aimed at strengthening Armagh's position well into the future.

Upper English Street and Russell Street as well as Barrack Street form two areas, or 'clusters', that have been earmarked for improvements by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council.

The council's aim is to bring back into use current empty retail outlets, while also revamping the overall 'look' of the streets.

Under its plans, outlined in a recent report, Little Barrack Street will have a courtyard area - situated on space currently used for car parking - subject to planning approval. The environmental improvements will also extend to new paving, landscaping and street furniture, all "finished to a high standard". "The intended scheme will rejuvenate the area, making it an attractive area for use primarily by pedestrians", the report states.

Meanwhile, Russell Street and Upper English Street, although praised in the report as being "busy, with shops and other commercial premises at ground level", the presence of empty retail units at both ground and upper levels was also noted. "If these areas were to be brought back into use, it would have an extremely positive impact on the city as a whole," stresses the report.

The identified areas have been selected as they were deemed "most in need of restoration". The overall aim is create a "more vibrant shopping area, attracting more visitors to the city".

Any restoration improvements, however, will be carried out in accordance with Conservation Area regulations, which are in place to protect Armagh's Georgian architectural heritage. "Signage, street furniture and lighting should be in a unified style which is in keeping with the character of the Conservation Area and their design and layout should seek to avoid clutter.

ANY orginal elements of the streetscape should be retained wherever possible," the report states.

The improvements are part of a wider Conservation Area Management Plan which will be implemented by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council under its Townscape Heritage Scheme, with 6.3m of funding in place, including investment by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

That process is now taking shape, after the council joined forces with existing traders, representatives from various bodies, all under the Armagh City Townscape Heritage Partnership.

Its chairperson, Alderman Freda Donnelly said the heritage funding would see 28 properties in the city centre "restored to their former glory and brought back into productive use".

"Armagh City is so well known for its Georgian architecture and history, that it is vital that the historical character is retained for future generations, but to also incorporate modern facilities to encourage people back into the city centre to live, as during the Troubles many shop owners left because of the security threat. This project will include derelict areas which when completed will breath new life into the city centre and make it a great place to live, work and visit."

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