A significant Government funding package of almost £1m, aimed at bringing trade and business back into the city and town centres within the Derry City and Strabane District Council area, announced by Central Government earlier this week, has been welcomed by the Council who outlined details of how it will be spent locally.
£985,000 made up of £911,000 from the Department for Communities and £74,000 from the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs is to be invested in the Derry and Strabane area to bring about a range of environmental and infrastructural improvements to help the area recover from COVID-19.
The monies will be used for a number of initiatives that will help make the city and town centres more accessible and user friendly and will assist businesses in restoring customer confidence to entice shoppers and visitors back following the pandemic.
As part of the infrastructural and environmental improvement plans, it is anticipated the funding will be used to provide temporary street furniture, the possible pedestrianisation of certain streets, urban greening provision, the improvement of derelict facades, the provision of marquees for events and additional footfall counters to monitor numbers visiting the city and town centres.
The funding will also include the provision of a business grant scheme to help businesses to deal with the impact of COVID-19 and to help them attract customers back again. The funding from the Department for Communities and DAERA will be rolled out to support Retail, Hospitality and Cultural/ Heritage businesses across the Council area to help them put in place new measures to encourage customers back to their business.
Under the scheme, businesses will be able to apply for grant funding of £500 to £3000 to assist them with reopening and to encourage trade back into city and town centres as well as rural locations across the Council area. The businesses will be permitted to spend the funding to enhance shop frontages or erect awnings, purchase outdoor furniture or heaters or install hand- sanitising stations. Businesses can also use the funding to carry out minor works to assist with social distancing measures or barriers to help with queuing or to assist with staff training or the installation of digitisation systems. Details of the scheme are to be announced next week.
As part of this substantial funding package, additional cleansing and waste management works will be stepped up across the Council area along with an animation and city dressing campaign that will see the erection of bunting, lighting, outdoor sound and hanging baskets.
A bespoke marketing campaign promoting the location and highlighting the positive work being done to make the city and town centres safe for the public will also be initiated, while a pilot street trading programme, aimed at providing trading opportunities for local businesses adversely affected by COVID and the cancellation of markets and events, will also be included in the plan.
Welcoming the funding, the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr Brian Tierney said the monies would go some way towards providing support to local businesses who are reopening in a very challenging economic climate.
He said this Government funding would help restore public confidence to return to shop or visit city and town centres.
“This Government intervention is hugely important in helping our city and town centres readapt to a new way of working. It will help Council and key stakeholders transform a number of key areas across Derry and Strabane to encourage the public back into our centres to shop, eat out and socialise in a safe environment. I welcome the close working partnership between Council, the various Government departments, stakeholders and businesses in securing the funding to collectively strive to enhance and revive city and town centres in our Council area. “
(Photo: Aidan Campbell)