You might be forgiven for thinking that Lisburn’s development, including the two fires in 1641 and 1707, has been a bit random up to now. But no longer. Lisburn City Council along with the Department of Social Development and Lisburn City Centre Management have employed consultants (GVA Grimley, EDAW and Faber Maunsell) to construct a masterplan. And over the last month or so they’ve been consulting the local ratepayers to canvass their opinion.
(Note that clicking on the maps will enlarge them!)
In case you’ve missed the exhibition display boards tucked in beside the stairs on the way out of Lisburn Library or the alternative set in the Island Centre, there’s also a seven page PDF of the posters.
You have until Friday (9 October) to feed back “your views by completing one of the questionnaires provided at the exhibition.” I’ve a feeling that Paul McCormick (LCC Economic Development Unit) and Alan Clarke (City Center Manager) may also welcome your suggestions by email (on paul DOT mccormick AT lisburn DOT gov DOT uk and alanclarke AT lisburnccm DOT co DOT uk).
cunning plan masterplan identified that Lisburn has been an area of economic growth, but
“the City Centre has not fully benefited from investment or development. The City Centre lacks many of the features that shoppers, businesses, residents and visitors would expect in a growing and prosperous city.”
Over its 15 year vision, the plan recommends
“a series of prioritised actions that will help to strengthen the performance and prospects of the City Centre.”
So what’s being suggested?
As well as plans to making more use of Lisburn’s historic assets (“provide a positive context for investment in the historic environment ... to enhance the visitor appeal” in consult-speak) and opportunities to reconnect the city centre with the River Lagan, the masterplan makes a pitch to strengthen Lisburn’s retail offering.
Bow Street has a number of units that have been vacant for over a year, and Lisburn Square is hardly thriving. The plan identifies that
“areas such as Bridge Street and the Market Square suffer from issues of vacant and difficult to let property ... predominantly small scale and not suited to modern retailer requirements ...”
Nevertheless, their study shows that
“there is capacity to deliver more retail space, to diversify the range of retailers and fill key gaps in the retail offer such as additional food retailing ...”
There seems to be an emphasis on removing “street clutter” and simplifying the “street furniture and lighting” in Market Square and Bow Street.
“The choice of materials and design is a modern response to the historic character [of Market Square] but not a pastiche of it.”
The area around Jordan’s Mill and the Graeme Gardens multi-storey car park would be transformed into a retail space, with the car parking relocated to the outskirts of the town centre (primarily on the other side of the railway track at Lisburn Railway Station, to the southern side of the North Circular Road).
The car park currently front of the train station will be flattened, creating a new “pedestrian friendly” “public square”. Lisburn Courthouse also seems to be flattened as part of the masterplan.
Also in the plan is the observation that “the City Centre does not currently offer hotel accommodation”, acknowledging that Lisburn’s only hotel is a good fifteen minute walk from the retail centre. Also missing is “a wide choice of restaurants, bars and an evening entertainment offer that would contribute to the overall performance of the economy and trading potential of local businesses”. Which I think means that nearly everything shuts at dinner time and there’s no reason to step over your doorstep in the evening.
Modern office accommodation is also lacking.
“With a few exceptions, the majority of business space is ‘above the shop’ in small historic premises. This lack of modern provision has prevented investment by larger footloose companies in the City Centre ...”
The answer here seems to be the creation of a new Business Quarter around Linenhall Street with 300,000 sq ft of commercial office space, a hotel and smaller retail/leisure units on the sites of the Royal Mail Sorting Office and yard, the Health Centre and part of the public car park on the hill.
And over on the far side of the river, behind the Island Centre and in-between the River Lagan and Hillsborough Old Road there are plans for a pedestrian boardwalk, cafes and bars, a new pedestrian footbridge as well as a range of 250 new homes “for sale and a choice of affordable homes”.
Oh, and three more opportunities for “gateway public art”.
So what do you think? Can Lisburn sustain any more retail? Will the car parking be too far out of the city centre for short-breathed bag-laden shoppers and tired toddlers?