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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Councillors consider derelict town centre buildings across Mid and East Antrim

Dunluce Street, Larne

A quarter of properties in Larne town centre are vacant, according to an audit carried out by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council last year.

Of these, 12 buildings are either vacant or derelict and deemed unfit for occupancy with Dunluce Street and Point Street the worst affected.

In Carrickfergus, this figure was 18 per cent last year with 13 derelict commercial units. West Street, North Street and Irish Quarter West were considered to be areas with “significant dereliction”.

In Ballymena, there were nine derelict properties in the town centre. Wellington Street was found to have “significant dereliction”.

In Larne town centre, there has been an increase in vacancy and dereliction from 22 per cent in 2020 to 26 per cent in 2023.

Speaking at a meeting of the council’s Environment and Economy Committee on Monday evening, Larne Lough DUP Councillor Gregg McKeen highlighted Dunluce Street and Point Street in Larne.

He said: “We all know there are changed circumstances around retail. We need to look at those streets for different types of development, houses or office accommodation, then concentrate retail on the main streets and around them.”

Cllr McKeen requested that an invitation be sent to Communities Minister Gordon Lyons asking him to tour Mid and East Antrim’s town centres. He noted the Department for Communities has responsibility for revitalisation and the it should provide a strategy to tackle town centre vacancy.

Cllr McKeen noted the former Dunnes Stores premises at Main Street in Larne remains unoccupied. The retail outlet is on the market for £1m.

Dunluce Street, Larne

Dunluce Street, Larne

He urged the council to take action at Dunluce Street to make a derelict building safe and to enable the road to be reopened. He also suggested the council could seek rates support for businesses affected by the road closure within the area.

“What powers can we invoke because businesses are struggling because of this road closure? If that had happened at Main Street, would we have let it be closed for 16 months?”

The council has taken legal action over a derelict building at Dunluce Street which has been closed to traffic for the past 16 months. A court order was served on a property owner who was given three months to undertake repair work. The committee was told the local authority is still “working on enforcement through the court system”.

Larne Lough Ulster Unionist Cllr Roy Beggs said: “It is clear that our town centres continue to suffer pressures. In Larne, there has been significant increase in vacancies from 2022 until 2023.

“It is important we ourselves try to assist retailers in whatever way we can. While there has been long-term vacancy, we should be looking to see if our planning strategy should be adjusted to try to minimise impact on local traders.”

Bannside TUV Cllr Timothy Gaston urged caution over a rates review in one street adding it could become “a burden somewhere else”. 

“There can be winners and losers in one town,” he commented.

He pointed out the rates increase facing businesses in Mid and East Antrim will be “a sizeable overhead”.  Last month, the council hiked non-domestic rates by almost 12 per cent.

Braid DUP Alderman William McCaughey suggested the local authority could see how other councils address derelict properties as Mid and East Antrim considers the development of a dereliction policy.

A report to the Environment and Economy Committee stated: “Council have developed a range of interventions to support the regeneration of town centre properties with the aim of achieving a reduction in vacancy and dereliction.”

These include the “upgrading of public realm and civic spaces and provision of grants to private sector property owners to carry out works ranging from minor shop front upgrades through to extensive construction works”.

The report noted there were 107 applications for grants up to almost £5,000 towards shop front improvements ranging from new signage to windows, doors and repainting with £275k in grant assistance awarded to businesses between December 2023 and February 2024.


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