Some Mid and East Antrim villages ‘losing out’ on revitalisation funding, council told

Financial support is available for town centre businesses.Financial support is available for town centre businesses.
Financial support is available for town centre businesses.
Concern has been raised over Mid and East Antrim villages that have been excluded from a town centre recovery programme.

The issue was highlighted at a meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council on Monday evening.

The meeting was told that villages have had to take the same precautions as those in town centres during the Covid pandemic but are faced with “much greater” expense.

Concern was also expressed that more than 30 businesses in Harryville, Ballymena, may not been included in the scheme due to their location outside the town centre as well as those in Portglenone and Galgorm.

The “larger” villages in Mid and East Antrim set to benefit are Ahoghill, Broughshane, Cullybackey and Whitehead. It was confirmed that Harryville would be included.

Funding of between £500 and £2,000 is open to independent traders in these areas as well as Larne, Carrickfergus and Ballymena to cover PPE equipment and costs incurred to make adaptations to comply with government guidelines.

The Deputy Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Knockagh Ulster Unionist Councillor Andrew Wilson, pointed out that Greenisland has the fourth largest urban population in the borough but is excluded from the scheme.

“There have been a number of applications from the general Carrickfergus area. It is good to see that the scheme is up and running and is open for applications,” he added.

Coast Road Alliance Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna commented that the funding does not extend  up the coast beyond Larne.

“It is important that the rural villages should be included.”

Party colleague Larne Lough Cllr Danny Donnelly said he had been approached by businesses at Ledcom in Larne which look set to lose out as they are located “just outside the town centre boundary”.

Mid and East Antrim expects to receive a total amount of £794,000 from funding of £11m announced by the Department for Communities and Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) which will be received in two tranches.

Chief executive Anne Donaghy explained that council are “the administrators of the scheme” which she described as “very prescriptive” with the focus on increasing footfall levels back into town centres and larger villages laid out by DAERA.

“Our role is simply to get the money out to businesses as quickly as possible,” she stated.

She said that the scheme extended to Harryville and she would clarify the boundaries for members and make representation for smaller villages. The Mayor asked for Greenisland to be included. She also indicated that there will be a second tranche of money.

Fifty-four local businesses have applied for financial assistance through the Town Centre Revitalisation Scheme which opened for applications at the start of this month.

Commenting after the meeting, the Mayor of Mid and East Antrim,  Cllr Peter Johnston, said: “Our town centres are at the very heart of our local communities and this investment by DfC and DAERA is well-deserved recognition of the critical role they play in driving our local economy.

“The Town Centre Recovery Group which was set up has been working tirelessly to do all they can to assist businesses through this difficult period and these grants will only aid that recovery.” Read here

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter.

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