Armagh city centre and ABC borough town centres will receive a share of £700,000 to help aid their economic recovery from the impacts of Covid-19.
It’s the first round of an £11 million funding package from government with Newry, Mourne and Down town centres to receive a £590,000 package.
The Department for Communities (DfC) is investing £10 million in the Capital Covid-19 Recovery Revitalisation Scheme which will be used in larger town and city centres, with a further £1m coming from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) to be used for smaller settlements.
The funding will be allocated to councils in two tranches to deliver measures that will help provide a safe environment for visitors, shoppers and workers within town and city centres.
This may include measures such as shop frontage and awnings/canopies; outdoor furniture; heaters queueing systems; PA/Tannoy and digital screens, and other signage.
Making the announcement Minister Ní Chuilín said: “As an Executive we are committed to supporting our town and city centres as they emerge from this pandemic.
“As restrictions have lifted, I appreciate that the current environment still presents very real challenges for businesses who are working hard to deliver for their staff, customers and community.
“Many have demonstrated their resilience and this funding I am announcing today will help reassure traders, shoppers and visitors that our town centres are open for business again in a safe way.
“Minister Hargey initiated this work and I am delighted that this much needed support is now available to provide a safer experience for anyone visiting, shopping or working in our town and city centres.
“I very welcome that with the support of Minister Poots, this funding will support both urban and rural areas as we work to support recovery.”
An initial £6m for immediate interventions has been allocated to the 11 councils who will administer the funding in their area.
The remaining £5m from the Department for Communities will issue later in the year, and will be used to address medium- to longer-term measures such as minor public realm or environmental improvements, the adaptation of gap sites or vacant premises for meanwhile use or pop-up spaces, or provision of lighting schemes.
Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots added: “As lockdown restrictions are being eased and non-essential shops, cafes, bars and restaurants are opening for business it is vital that we restore visitor and worker confidence in our town centres and villages as being safe places to work, visit and shop.
“I am confident this Revitalisation Scheme will help achieve this and I encourage Councils to work closely with DfC to deliver this assistance as efficiently and effectively as possible.”
Alliance Councillor Brian Pope commented: “I welcome today’s announcement from the Executive of £11m to support town and city centres.
“Investment in our towns and city centre is vital during these challenging times for traders and businesses. Building resilience and assuring customers of safety is an important step in the recovery and confidence building process.
“The funding to address medium- to longer term measures such as minor public realm or environmental improvements is also welcomed. We have been calling for additional support to help create additional public spaces for traders, street cafes and pedestrians.
“A vibrant and thriving local economy will also give a boost to the local tourism market.”