£200k ‘instant uplift’ to town centre

Carrickfergus Castle. INCT 38-403-RM
Carrickfergus Castle. INCT 38-403-RM

Carrick could be set to benefit from a new £200,000 revitalisation scheme aimed at boosting the appearance of town centre shop fronts.

The project is part of a raft of schemes being run across the province by the Department for Communities (DfC) cosmetically enhancing properties and funding events and marketing initiatives to stimulate footfall. The programme directly targets commercial districts, small retailers and traders.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council is hoping to secure £180,000 from the DfC which will allow for improvements to be rolled out in High Street, Lancasterian Street, Irish Quarter West, Antrim Street and Upper North Street.

According to a report presented to the council’s Economic Growth and Tourism Committee on Monday night, the initiative will complement previous revitalise programmes and enhance the town’s £2.5 million public realm programme.

Council officer Aidan Donnelly described the Carrickfergus Revitalise scheme as a “traditional shop front proposal”.

DUP Councillor Cheryl Johnston proposed that council submit a funding application to the DfC and that the local authority provide £20,000 of match funding for the Carrick revitalise scheme.

“Areas such as Irish Quarter West and North Street are areas that need this work, and I am happy to propose it and hope it gets done as soon as possible,” she stated.

Her proposal was seconded by DUP Alderman Gregg McKeen.

Councillors also heard that the project would give Carrick an “instant uplift,” while Mr Donnelly revealed that council would be considering “environmental improvements” around the town’s historic walls.

Meanwhile, the committee also unanimously agreed to jointly fund and organise a one-day food market in Carrickfergus Castle this autumn with the DfC’s Historic Environment Division.

According to a council report, the food market would be themed around high-quality offerings from Northern Ireland producers and include approximately 15 stall holders within the castle grounds and on Castle Green if needed. It will be supported by living history characters based on Castle Green and themed around food and food production.

There would also be a display of food items archaeologically excavated from the town.

The report states that the purpose of the event, which it is hoped will be held annually around harvest time, is to “encourage visitors to the castle and to act as an advertisement for the local area and food producers within Northern Ireland”.

The cost to council of this year’s market would be £3000.

Proposing that council accepts the recommendation to deliver the food market, Councillor Cheryl Johnston said it had been “a long time coming”.

She added that she would be “keen to see” the council work with food producers from within the borough when organising the event, and said she believed there would be a potential for the food market to be held more regularly, in conjunction with other markets in the town, against the castle backdrop.

A council officer revealed that while market stalls would be located in the castle, supporting activity would take place on Castle Green.

The proposal was seconded by UUP Cllr Lindsay Millar.

Council Chief Executive Anne Donaghy told the committee that the food market would be the first project to take place at the castle since negotiations were completed to share its management between the council and the NIEA.