ONE of Ballymena’s best shopping streets could face ‘devastating consequences’ if new parking plans are introduced.
That was the firmly united opinion of traders in Ballymoney Street when they launched a campaign to have their concerns about radical street layout plans ‘properly heard’ this week.
The traders are increasingly angry that the ambitious scheme, which involves eradicating some 60% of existing parking spaces on the busy street, is being driven forward despite their previously expressed fears about its implications.
Sammy Moore, Amanda Barr, Jenny Herald and Trevor Barr, acting as spokespersons for the traders’ group, said that the scheme, part of Ballymena Borough Council’s vision for the town centre’s ‘core streets’ was inherently flawed.
“According to the thinking of those who are promoting the concept of ‘Public Realm Vision’, the ultimate aim is to bring a customer friendly ‘buzz’ back to town centres.
“We’ve maintained our businesses for many, many years. No one needs to lecture us about being customer friendly and if anyone can point to a town in Northern Ireland which has a better retail buzz than Ballymena then we’d love to hear about it.
“We accept there are many positive aspects to the public realm vision. Unfortunately they are completely overshadowed by the blatant bid to cull on-street parking spaces.
“We feel badly let down on this issue. It seems there is a determination to ride roughshod over those who provide jobs and services in the town.
They added: “The consultation process for this scheme has, in our opinion, been lightweight in its approach.
“Various documents have been passed around which suggest that all our concerns have been ‘alleviated’.
“We can state quite clearly and unanimously that none of our concerns have been properly taken on board. We intend to highlight the pitfalls of this scheme which we feel is toying with the livelihoods of scores, perhaps hundreds of local people.
“Our views are based on business experience in the real world, not wishful thinking. We are not pulling punches here - we fear that further curtailment of on-street parking opportunities in Ballymoney Street would be tantamount to a callous disregard of what business needs in this very hard economic climate.
“Taking away spaces to provide grandiose pedestrian walkways, superfluous trees and street ‘furniture’ which are quite obviously not required is, in our opinion, a huge gamble which will fail.
“When the shutters go down and jobs are lost, who will be accountable?” they asked..
So far traders have launched a petition asking customers would they shop if they did not have available parking spaces on Ballymoney Street.
They also have requested a meeting with the Borough Council so they can express their views.