Overend calls for action on empty shops

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ULSTER Unionist Economy spokesperson Sandra Overend has called for more to be done to tackle the increase in the number of empty shops in our high Streets.

Speaking following the publication of research conducted by commercial property agency Lisney which found that 23 per cent of shops in Belfast are vacant shops and with a Northern Ireland wide figure of 19 per cent, the Mid-Ulster MLA said action is needed now.

“Action is needed to ensure that the plight of empty shops is addressed,” said Mrs Overend, “I know that the Finance Minister has taken action in this regard through a 50 per cent empty property relief (or an exclusion if applicable) where shop fronts or shop windows are used for community, artistic or other non-commercial purposes, however, this results in largely aesthetic improvements.

“The legislation for Business Improvement Districts may also have a positive effect on the situation once implemented.

“More needs to be done to ensure that our town centres and the retail sector especially are supported. My colleague, the “DRD Minister Danny Kennedy, has played his part through not proceeding with plans to roll out on-street parking charges to around 30 towns and cities across Northern Ireland.

“I would urge other Executive Ministers to follow his lead and support our local town centres and retail sector.”