The great debate: Are town centres a thing of the past?
...and who is to blame, the larger corporates or the consumer?
Morning readers, Rikki with you here. This subject matter has been on my mind for a while so I wanted to use the newsletter as an outlet for inducing thought and hopefully some debate. One thing we have noticed since moving onto Barrack Street in Armagh City Centre is the sheer amount of footfall and traffic flow in the city. I think it’s safe for us to say Armagh is alive and well. For those of you who don’t know where we are, we aren’t easy to miss - and for all you coffee lovers, we are beside what seems to be one of the most popular coffee houses in the city!
For years there has been a debate, did the shopping centre take all the trade out of Lurgan and Portadown? Is Tandragee becoming a drive-thru on the route to Newry? Has Gilford town or village (depending on your perception) been totally forgotten? Are the better shops in Banbridge at the top of the town? The list is endless.
We hear it day and daily that town centres are full of charity shops and hairdressers.. indeed I remember a time people used to say they were full of banks… alas not the case any longer as over the years banks have made a mass exodus.
We can’t deny that yes, town centres have changed, but are they merely evolving as consumer habits change? Is entrepreneurship waning and ultimately are the bigger multinational conglomerates to blame by sweeping in and buying up smaller businesses struggling to make it? Or perhaps the consumer is to blame for not backing ‘the little guy’?
A drive through Tandragee might heighten your senses to this! On Christmas Eve we published Concerns by elderly Tandragee folk as Church Street SPAR confirms New Year closure and two weeks ago the latest blow for the town came as New Craigavon factory to relocate Tandragee’s White’s Speedicook up for approval, plans which will see Whites (now owned by Fane Valley) leaving their current home in Tandragee – where they have been based since 1841.
The empty buildings are stacking up, or falling down as was the case in August 2021 when Tandragee’s Market Street was closed again due to risk to neighbouring property as contractors were called in to demolish an unstable property. To date no work has been carried out to improve the appearance of either property - leaving one business closed for trading.
Other businesses lost to the town over the years include The Spot Nightclub which closed and was subsequently sold in 2002 following closure shortly after the double murder of Andrew Robb (19), and David McIlwaine (18) in 2000.
Indeed many empty units adorn the main street as many of the landmark buildings have never been reoccupied, Cullen’s Bar and Lounge which remains on the market for sale, the former home of Hamilton Hardware on Mill Street as the extensive property portfolio was put up for sale, 132 Market Street a five bedroom, three storey residential property as well a prominent property in Church Street.
It’s not all bad for Tandragee, following what seemed to be the closure of The Montagu Arms was taken over by once mobile DJ Paddy Nixon saving it from ruin in September 2022.
Tandragee is a town with its problems, but one which has a close knit community which does support its independent traders - of which there are plenty. What can be done to drive the growth of this small but very important town? Are you a Tandragee resident, we would love to hear from you and your thoughts. Simply reply to this newsletter or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Previous Tandragee stories include:
Tandragee is in line for a new mixed-use retail and office development in the town centre were given the thumbs-up.
Defibrillator installed outside shop in Tandragee
Tandragee company to create 15 new jobs with expansion plans
In the headlines
Portadown kids packing supplies for Turkey while dad helps on the ground
Out with the old and in with the new. Delight as work starts on state-of-the-art St Ronan’s College new-build in Lurgan
Armagh business pays tribute on passing of veteran employee of 25 years
US citizen sacks third lawyer and reject bail terms in alleged ‘misunderstanding’ with woman
More needs to be done to calm traffic outside a Lurgan primary school.
A Portadown sex offender who changed his address without informing the police has been sentenced to 120 hours community service.
Armagh’s former United Colors of Benetton store at Mall West is set to be transformed into a new church-led community hub.
The Legahory bridge in Craigavon is to be demolished in the interests of public health and safety.
One Lurgan runner is gearing up to race on home turf as this year’s Anglo-Celtic Plate 100K Championship is set to bring teams from across the UK and Ireland to Craigavon Lakes.
Keady’s famous ‘Trap Bar’ to be given new lease of life – as funeral home!
Jobs Profiled: As though the stars themselves had aligned, Heather now occupies the position of Senior Education Officer at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium.
JF McKenna are seeking to fill the role of Installation and Service engineer, based in Northern Ireland.
Progressive coffee company Barista Express offer opportunities for full and part time Baristas
Parts Sales Advisor - Traynors
Education Assistant - Armagh Observatory and Planetarium
Accounts Administration - Konfloor
Just in time for Valentine’s weekend! Win a pair of tickets with Omniplex Cinema’s. We aren’t saying you have to go and see Magic Mike but we hear it’s pretty good! To view more listings click here
i would imagine that it would be difficult to gain support to restrict customers from gaining access to the town by creating further restrictions to vehicles. This wouldn't be a plan for growth. The town needs substantial free parking, this would be funded by additional rates 18 months after implementation as business would have benefited and be able to afford increase in rates. Tonight we hear business rates are to increase yet Armagh Council are not facilitating growth in the town with the result more businesses will close and they will receive less money. lack of proper planning is the issue, Armagh needs a strong plan business can get behind and this will bring jobs and increased revenue for social projects for all. failing that Armagh will struggle in the longer term.
what ever happened to the Armagh City review? we seem to have mixed messages in the town with much money being spent to develop our Georgian image, whilst allowing new buildings in the town to be out of character, have we not learned? The town needs a vision that businesses can buy into and develop. if we are a tourist town then lets promote traditional music venues for visitors, fine dining restaurants and better parking.