Thursday, 25 February 2010

Bloomfield Shopping Centre's recent Planning Application

My thoughts this week turn to the planning application recently submitted by Bloomfield Shopping Centre.

A few years ago Bloomfield Shopping Centre applied for and received planning permission to expand the Centre to include the additional units which now accommodate retailers such as Hanna & Brown and Mothercare.

A short time after this expansion another Planning Application has now been submitted which, if approved, will see the Shopping Centre grow by 4000 square metres.

Out-of-town retail developments do, I believe, have merit, depending on the goods sold and the infrastructure of roads and public transport links being in place to support such developments. Bloomfield Shopping Centre has been a valuable part of the retail offering in North Down accommodating retailers such as Tesco and Marks & Spencer. Bloomfield Shopping Centre has shown a strong commitment to North Down and good Corporate Social Responsibility supporting a wide range of events such as Young Enterprise Trade Fair, Bangor 10k run, International Choral Festival and Swim Ulster.

Sites such as Holywood Exchange which accommodate retailers such as IKEA and B&Q selling "bulky goods" are welcome and sensible. Many of the goods sold by retailers such as IKEA cannot practically be collected and taken home on a bus or train from a city or town centre location. Imagine trying to get a wardrobe on board a double-decker bus! It is therefore extremely logical and proper that IKEA is located at an out-of-town location such as Holywood Exchange which easily accommodates car users via the A2 dual carriageway.

In terms of grocery retailers, I find it difficult to undertake my weekly grocery shopping without the use of a car. It is therefore seems sensible that large grocery retailers are sited at out-of-town locations with the large amount of traffic they generate diverted away from the town centre to developments such as Springhill Shopping Centre. For this reason I welcome the decision to grant planning permission for a Sainsbury's store at Balloo, Bangor.

Smaller retailers should, however, be encouraged to establish their businesses within town centre locations, allowing town centres to thrive rather than merely struggling to survive.

Lisburn has successfully managed to secure a correct mix with a vibrant town centre catering for smaller retailers, coffee shops etc., whilst Sprucefield accommodates large grocery retailers such as Sainsbury's and those which sell bulky goods such as B&Q.

Rather than concede defeat and give up the battle to ensure Bangor Town Centre has a positive future the planners should adhere to their own guidelines, clarify the roles of out-of-town and town-centre developments and reject the recent Planning Application submitted by Bloomfield Shopping Centre.

This would be a valuable first move which would facilitate the regeneration of Bangor Town Centre along with the implementation of a Masterplan for Bangor Town Centre and approval of the Planning Application for the Queen's Parade development. The proposed Queen's Parade development, which provides a valuable mix of small and medium-sized retail units, cafés / restaurants, offices, apartments and a hotel, and should be fast-tracked and approved as soon as possible.

Bangor Town Centre can be a vibrant place embracing a wide variety of smaller retailers, a café culture similar to Holywood, more offices and Town Centre living. It is within the planners' gift to create this vision. I urge them to understand that Bloomfield Shopping Centre should be complementing rather than competing with Bangor Town Centre.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Muir welcomes Council endorsement of Fair Trade

Last week North Down Borough Council took the decision to support Fair Trade, following a motion proposed by Alliance Councillor Anne Wilson.

With many people in developing countries marginalised and exploited by multi-national companies in their effort to maximise profits, Fair Trade is a beacon of hope for people in the poorest countries of the world.


Fair Trade ensures better social and environmental standards. Fair Trade also cuts out the middle man, allowing producers and workers to enjoy sustainable livelihoods with co-operatives and other wealth sharing mechanisms encouraged.

North Down Council's recent decision is an important step towards Bangor being designated as a Fair Trade Town. With more and more people embracing Fair Trade I look forward to other bodies and organisations endorsing the approach and selling the wide array of products now available which range from coffee to tea, fruit, chocolate and even wine!

18 February 2010

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Muir takes action on dog fouling

Local community activist and Alliance Party North Down Chairperson Andrew Muir has called upon North Down Borough Council to roll out more dog waste bins in the Ballyholme area.

Speaking in response to a number of representations made to him by local residents, Andrew stated "I have recently received a number of phonecalls from local residents in the Ballyholme area complaining about dog fouling. Dog fouling is both unsightly and a serious health danger. Dog waste is a serious human health hazard; it can cause blindness, lung disease and other health problems and must therefore be considered very seriously”.


Continuing, Andrew remarked “One local resident recently contacted me about dog fouling in the Windmill Road and Ashley Drive areas of Ballyholme. The resident told me about some of the terrible consequences of dog fouling with her young children recently walking dog mess into the house and ruining the carpets. She also told me about the trouble caused after her child’s pushchair got caught up in dog mess.”

Andrew Muir detailed that following receipt of the lady’s concerns he has contacted North Down Borough Council who have assured him that Council staff will attempt to clean up the pavements in the Windmill Road, Ashley Drive area. Mr Muir also remarked that Council Enforcement Officers will continue to patrol the area and anyone found guilty of leaving dog waste on the pavements will be liable to a £50 fixed penalty fine.

Commenting on the lack of dog waste bins, Andrew stated “I have also received representations from residents in the Groomsport Road area, calling for the Council to install a dog waste bin at the Groomsport Road Roundabout. The residents in question have informed me that many people walk their dogs between Ballyholme and Groomsport via the Bangor Road and have no safe place to dispose of their dog waste between Groomsport Harbour and Ballyholme Beach”.

Continuing, Andrew stated “In light of the information received from the residents in the Groomsport Road area I call upon North Down Borough Council to consider installing a dog waste bin at the Groomsport Road Roundabout. The installation of this bin will help reduce the amount of dog fouling in Ballyholme, creating a safer and more pleasant environment for everyone”.

Concluding, Andrew remarked “From my experience the vast majority of dog owners are responsible dog lovers who would never dream of leaving dog waste on the pavement. Provision of additional dog waste bins will hopefully service their needs whilst patrols by Council Enforcement Officers will help tackle the very small number of dog owners who refuse to clean up after their dog.”

4 January 2010