The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) today launched a manifesto for the forthcoming Local Government Elections.
The report, entitled Local First, sets out 80 policy recommendations, covering economic development, urban regeneration, innovation and modernised town centres for the new 11 councils.
The Town Centre Summit was held at The MAC, Belfast, and was attended by ministers, local retailers and businesses. Guest speakers included Lord Mayor of Belfast, Mairtin O Muilleoir, DOE Minister Mark H Durkan, DSD Minister Nelson McCausland and DRD Minister Danny Kennedy.
NIIRTA believes that the proposed new system encompassing 11 councils with enhanced powers, provides a real opportunity to make a difference to local communities, the economy and town centres.
Speaking at the launch, NIIRTA chief executive and author of the report, Glyn Roberts said: “By and large the local business community needs to wake up to the huge challenges and opportunities that the new councils will offer. They could be the change-makers for economic development, radically new town centres, innovation and urban regeneration.
“Our manifesto, Local First is an economic Programme for Local Government, setting out 80 ideas about how the 11 councils, working with the NI Executive, can help to create employment, regenerate town centres, revamp car parking and ensure they adopt a fair planning policy.”
Glyn added: “This is not just a retail manifesto, but a programme for economic and social change for Northern Ireland.”
Among the eighty recommendations in Local First are:
- Strong ‘town centre first’ Planning Policy
- Councils and Executive helping to create 3,000 independent retailers right across Northern Ireland by 2020
- Strong partnership cabinet model for local government
- Free Wi-Fi for all town centres by 2020
- Apps for all town centres by 2016
- Small Business Commissioner for Belfast, based on New York City model
- Regeneration Commissioner for Derry~Londonderry, replacing existing agencies
- Retail Incubators for every town centre
- Councils establishing Local Growth Partnerships
- Restructured and enhanced Chambers of Commerce
- On street car parking transferred to councils by 2020
- Extended Empty Premises Relief qualification from 12 months to six
- Community Hub model for town centres
- Digital High Street Strategy for every town centre
* Pictured top are (from left) Lord Mayor of Belfast, Mairtin O Muilleoir, NIIRTA Chair Nigel Maxwell, DRD Minister Danny Kennedy, DSD Minister Nelson McCausland, DOE Minister Mark H Durkan and NIIRTA CEO Glyn Roberts