Anger at canal upgrade plan
Tuesday, 8 January 2013
REGENERATION plans for Merchants Quay in Newry could be the final nail in the coffin for small independent businesses in the city centre, it has been claimed.
In November Newry and Mourne Council and the Department of Social Development (DSD) announced plans for a £2.4m project that will see a major upgrade of the bank and footpath along Newry Canal.
Crucially, however, the scheme will see the removal of dozens of free car parking spaces from Needham Bridge to Sugar Island Bridge to create a wider footpath with new maritime railing along the canal - a move that businessmen in the area fear will be devastating for both trade and for employees.
Stephen Begley, who owns a solicitor's office on Merchants Quay, warned that such a move could prove fatal for small businesses in the area: "It's a major concern and we have already advised the council's representative and the consultants that this is not appropriate for this part of the town.
“It will adversely affect of all the businesses and adversely affect all of their customers and their employees.
“Whilst I'm in favour of regeneration, this is totally inappropriate for Merchants Quay."
The council said it is currently working with Newry City Centre Management Partnership to discuss opening the Corry Square/Catherine Street council-owned site for an upgraded car park on a long-term basis.
But Mr Begley said: "The council have said that they're going to create a paying car park in Catherine Street, but that won't suit workers who work in this part of town as it will have a negative impact on their pay packets.
“We need to maintain the car parking here on Merchants Quay and we need additional free car parking in the vicinity of the Town Hall and the Arts Centre.
“If someone is getting married in a civic reception in the Town Hall where do the guests park? If there's a show on in the Town Hall, where does the audience park?
“There isn't enough free parking round here as it is yet they want to take away free parking on Merchants Quay.
“Councillors need to take into account the needs of the people of this city. They should come down and have a look at this and see if this will improve or deteriorate the position for businesses and the workers of Newry.
“This would be the final nail in the coffin for small businesses in this area. It's time to give Newry back to the people of Newry."
Mr Begley said the regeneration plans should be redrawn to maintain parking on Merchants Quay and to include a car park at the rear of the Arts Centre and a bridge connecting the car park to Merchants Quay.
Work on the scheme - which had a two-week consultation period in November and December - is expected to start in April and completed early next year.
Raymond Goss from P&R Wholesales is opposed to the current proposals: "This is where our customers park. If they are taken away, it will be detrimental to businesses in this area.
“Instead of taking parking spaces away, they need to provide more to help small businesses in this part of Newry."
Bertie Flynn from Sinead's on Canal Street said if the parking spaces are removed then it's imperative that alternative, free parking is provided.
Mr Flynn, who said he believes the proposals have been drawn up to assist multi-nationals based in Newry, added: "There are brown field sites behind a number of businesses on Merchants Quay, so if the council take away these spaces it is essential they replace them with free parking."
The Democrat contacted the council on the subject but didn't receive a response at time of going to press.
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