Realm works - contractor apologises for delay

Work underway on one of Ballymena's core streets as part of the ongoing Public Realm scheme. (Editorial Image).
Work underway on one of Ballymena's core streets as part of the ongoing Public Realm scheme. (Editorial Image).

Town centre businesses have seen trade fall by as much as 40% since the start of Ballymena’s Public Realm Scheme, an MLA has claimed.

Latest: Perceived problems with the public realm scheme were to have been debated at Mid & East Antrim Council on Monday evening but ‘due to contractual issues’ the matter was discussed in closed session. A protest was lodged by Sinn Fein’s Paul Maguire.

DUP Assemblyman Paul Frew contacted the Times last week after meeting with concerned traders from Ballymoney Street, Broughshane Street and other core areas of the town centre where Public Realm works are ongoing. And the TUV’s Timothy Gaston also gave notice that he would be seeking answers to questions which had been raised with him by traders.

Mr. Frew said: “Many businesses have been impacted on this work, some down 40% in trade since the works started.

“That has been very hard to take, especially for new business in the town. Yet many businesses were accepting of the difficult trading environment that they would be placed in over this period, many seeing it as a necessary evil.”

Responding, a spokesperson for Mid & East Antrim Council told The Times yesterday afternoon (Monday): “Senior Council officials have been in regular contact with the contractor, who is fully aware of the dissatisfaction of both Council and traders.

“Council are now dealing with this issue under the terms of the contract and are not in a position to comment further at this time. The contractor has assured Council that the Ballymena Public Realm scheme will be completed on time, and that he has resolved a number of issues with the paving teams.

“The contractor has apologised to Council for any inconvenience and is determined to make up the delay, with his focus being on competing on time and within budget.”

The spokesperson added that the August monthly meeting of Council taking place in The Braid on Monday evening would see councillors presented with details of a new marketing campaign, which has been developed with traders in Ballymena.

“This will reinforce the message that Ballymena is ‘open for business’, while this Public Realm work is underway,” the Council spokesperson said.

Issues around the Public Realm Scheme were also due to be raised at last night’s Council meeting by Deputy Mayor Timothy Gaston.

The TUV Councillor had submitted a series of tabled questions about the scheme including - ‘when elected members could expect an update on the progress of the scheme to-date against the original timeframe’, and, also sought an outline of the number of ‘accidents, complaints and enquiries raised by the public and traders’ since the start of the scheme including ‘a summary of the issues raised’.

He also wanted to know ‘the average time taken to resolve any issues raised’ and ‘the number of outstanding issues including a detailed breakdown of what they are and how Council is going to deal with them.’

Councillor Gaston also queried the amount spent on promotional materials and PR on the scheme to-date.