We need to help our city's Independent retailers

Wed, 19/10/2011 - 15:01 -- Editor

Martin McCrossan City Tours is one of the longest established tour guides in the North West and will celebrate 20 years in the Tourism industry in 2013. What is now a full time business for him was once a hobby, his pastime was researching the city's past. His multi-award winning tours are known the world over and he is one of our city's greatest ambassadors. In my opinion the city is on the verge of very exciting development and is now known throughout the whole of the world as a city which had in the past a history of conflict but is now known as a city of peace and a city with diverse cultures who are now working together and are instrumental in bringing peace to the rest of Northern Ireland.What was once a troubled city is now benchmarked around the world as a city which is undergoing a major transformation and were the two communities now celebrate their diversity without coming into conflict. It is widely known that the city has seen very difficult days in the past and I am very confident that that the bad old days of the past will never return. This is evident with the good work of our MLA`s at Stormont and the Equality Agenda which is now at the forefront of local politics.It is quite evident that the city has had to beg for everything that it got or is looking to get, we have been starved of infrastructure, roads rails etc and it is good to see our locally elected ministers at the forefront of policy making decisions at Stormont. I am however very concerned at the lack of understanding that our local councilors have regarding the serious impact that out of town shopping developments will have and is having in our city centre.Many small independent retailers have gone to the wall in recent years, having been established for generations. These businesses have been the life and soul of the city, with all of the money circulating to the local economy. I am very concerned that we will end up with a city having major developments on the outskirts at the expense of the city centre.Many people today look for convenience , easy access and a bargain. Yes people should have choice but equality regarding parking, the rates system etc should be across the board so that everyone can compete on equal terms. It is amazing that developments out of town pay only a fraction of rates that retailers pay in the city centre and they also have loads of space for free car parking and good access.I have been shocked and dismayed recently at the decision not to lift the cap at Magee on student numbers as this would be a huge economic benefit not just to the university but to retailers, landlords and would be of major benefit to the city. The last few weeks have been very exciting as Danny Kennedy has overturned what were two potentially devastating decisions, proposed car parking charges and the decision not to upgrade the railway. I have also been heartened by the fact that the city is finally going to get a proper cruise terminal. Isn't it unbelievable that on a number of occasions cruise ships have arrived and because of weather conditions they could not get of the ship?We have a major opportunity with the city being awarded the UK City of Culture 2013, this opportunity will never arise again and we need to make sure we get it right so that everyone can benefit from it not just a select few. It must benefit everyone in the city including all our local communities .