A MASTERPLAN for the development of the heart of Lisburn which will play an important role in the campaign to attract new investment to the commercial heart and help it to become an inspiring city centre' should be ready by the end of the summer.
Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie announced the start of the project, which aims to transform the social and economic fabric of the city and should be ready by the end of the summer, in the historic surroundings of the Assembly Rooms on Wednesday afternoon. Mrs. Ritchie, whose department will finance the preparation of the Masterplan, told the Star there was a lot of potential for development of the city centre given Lisburn's city status and location in the south east of Northern Ireland.
"Lisburn has the opportunity to become an inspiring city centre and act as a catalyst for urban regeneration within Northern Ireland," she continued.
"This Masterplan will build on the work that is already ongoing to help identify and promote further investment needed and development opportunities within the Historic and Laganbank Quarters.
"It will also complement the Council's economic strategy for the wider city over the next decade to sustain Lisburn's strong reputation as a major retail, social and cultural destination."
Mrs. Ritchie said now was the right time to focus on regeneration and explained the project was all about 'providing further investment opportunities, creating jobs and securing existing jobs.
The purpose of the exercise, she added, was to allow the local community, council and City Centre Management team to assess with the help of the consultants how they wanted the area to develop.
"Lisburn, like many other urban centres, must review and reinvent itself in the face of changing economic, social and lifestyle trends. I am pleased that my Department has been able to make this happen by providing the funding to enable this master plan to be prepared," she added. Councillor Allan Ewart, Chairman of the Council's Economic Development Committee said to stay competitive, Lisburn must 'review and strengthen' its position as a regional economic centre of excellence.
He said it had already attracted UK wide retailers and boasted some of the top names in the local retail and manufacturing industry: "We must continue to build on this. This report will be the foundation for future economic initiatives and will play a vital role in the future development of the Council's economic development strategy. I look forward to reviewing the results in six months time," he said.
Alderman Edwin Poots, Chairman of Lisburn City Centre Management (LCCM) said a 'positive relationship' existed between Mrs. Ritchie's department, Lisburn City Council and LCCM.
"This is the latest in a number of major benefits for the City which have been realised from this partnership," he continued.
"I am convinced that the results of this study will have a significant contribution towards laying the foundations for future economic growth and public sector investment in Lisburn City Centre."
Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson said given the proposed John Lewis development at Sprucefield it was important to ensure the city centre could attract a large proportion of shoppers and visitors coming to the area.
He said the Masterplan must identify not only potential development sites to enable the growth of central Lisburn but also environmental improvement schemes to improve the quality of public spaces.
The plan will be drawn up by GVA Grimley Planning Consultants who have been involved in similar schemes throughout the UK. It will include
LISBURN City Centre Manager Patricia Elliot said businesses and other stakeholders in the area will have a chance to put forward ideas and suggestions for its development once the initial phase of the Masterplan is completed.
She added this consultation process will allow interested parties to express their views on how the the area can 'fulfil its potential to generate even greater economic activity and become a pleasant place to live with supporting civic and community infrastructure.
Mrs. Elliott also said the Masterplan will focus on three issues
Proactive preparation for the city centre to take advantage of the 'next investment cycle'. "With experience gained over the last decade Lisburn City Centre Management look forward to working with Lisburn City Council, DSD and other stakeholders to bring forward a series of physical investment projects and promotional activities on the back of the Masterplan process," she concluded.