There’s always the risk that something you blog or comment about online will be picked up and make it into the mainstream media. Listening to Good Morning Ulster on the car radio on the way into work, the subject of a Christmas ice rink in Lisburn and its cost unexpectedly cropped up.
Karen Patterson talked to the Lisburn Mayor Councillor Allan Ewart and Councillor Paul Butler about the plans and costs. Both were present at the Strategic Policy Committee when the ice rink idea was first mentioned on Monday night.
You can listen back to the short interview on iPlayer (starts at 1:20.43) until the programme expires early on 16 September.
Councillor Ewart (DUP) explained:
“Well it’s at an early stage yet. And a PR company have come to us with the idea of putting an ice rink under a marquee into Lisburn. It’s a very good idea I think, the traders will be happy. It will draw more people in to the city. And in a time of recession I think the traders would like as many people as possible to come. It’s the end of our 400th anniversary festival and it’s a good way to end and I think it should be welcomed by everyone.”
In terms of location, he went on to say:
“We haven’t agreed yet, but we hope that it will be in the newly refurbished Castle Gardens, which is really an icon of Lisburn at the minute. It’s been very popular and it draws people to that end of the city and we’re be very pleased if we get this to go ahead at that end of the city.”
Extensively renovated over the last few years, Castle Gardens is in behind the War memorial, opposite
Lisburn Tech South Eastern Regional College. It’s currently home to the monthly Farmers’ Market. But tucked away right at the other end of the city from Bow Street Mall and the main retail area, there are relatively low levels of natural footfall, with a lot of empty shop units on Bridge Street. Though it would be handy for the DUP advice centre which is only across the road in the old town hall!
Councillor Butler (Sinn Féin) referred to the original request for £1m budget for the £400th anniversary celebrations, that was then cut back to half a million. He also mentioned the “failure” and cost of similar schemes in Belfast. Summing up his position he said:
“My fear is that people will end up paying for this on their rates bill”
Councillor Ewart responded:
“The cost [from the promotion’s company] that we’re thinking about is somewhere like £35,000 which will put point 3 of a penny on the ratepayer’s bill which I don’t think is going to break the bank in homes across Lisburn.”
This is significantly cheaper than previous Belfast schemes - between a third and a quarter of the cost - which must point to a much smaller rink, a very short period of opening, or an over-ambitious estimate! (And now to figure out what "point 3 of a penny" actually means in terms of a rates bill increase.)
It’ll be interesting to see if the local weekly paper - the Ulster Star - picks up on the story when they publish at the end of the week.