Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland visited the public realm improvement scheme recently completed in Antrim town centre.
The scheme has improved the appearance and vitality of the town centre, introducing natural stone footpaths, new street lighting, street furniture and trees in Market Square, High Street and Church Street.
Changes to the parking layout have improved traffic flow and a new bus route has been introduced through Market Square to try to increase visitor and shopper numbers.
Mr McCausland said: “I believe this investment will be a key driver in improving the economic life of the town by helping sustain and develop the local businesses. The new and improved public realm will attract both local people and visitors alike.
“The opening up of Market Square to public transport buses will enable passengers to travel into the heart of the town providing greater vibrancy.”
In acknowledging the difficulties faced by town centre traders, Mr McCausland said: “Improvements to a town’s public realm represent a very positive development and I have seen the benefits of such schemes across Northern Ireland.
“The creation of a more attractive and pedestrian friendly environment should support more visitor numbers to this historic town and also encourage people to stay that little bit longer. This should help sustain local businesses and employment.”
The Minister also noted that the public realm improvements were the fulfilment of another action in the town’s masterplan and thanked all involved.
“Regeneration succeeds best when it is based on partnership: partnership between business, Government and the wider community. It is important that all the stakeholders involved work collaboratively,” he added.
Mayor of Antrim, Councillor Roderick Swann thanked the Minister, DSD and Roads Service for their significant funding contributions to the Antrim town public realm scheme and said: “The Council is delighted that this major scheme has come to fruition as it helps us realise a crucial part of the Masterplan strategy that we put in place for Antrim town centre in partnership with the local community, traders and the various statutory agencies.
“The new footpaths, public lighting, landscaping and street furniture, have already made a significant impact on the visual appearance of Antrim town centre helping to re-establish it as a modern contemporary market town whilst retaining its unique conservation character.
“Now that the works are complete residents, business owners and also visitors can see the real benefits of working in partnership to revitalise our towns and regenerate our communities.”