Retail Chief Says NI's Rural Areas Must Not Be Left Behind

The Chief Executive of Retail NI has made a plea to ensure the region's towns and villages are not left behind as urban centres develop.

Glyn Robert's comments come after the Belfast City Deal was approved by Secretary of State Karen Bradley earlier this week.

The retail body believes that rural communities are facing challenges due to a recent spate of ATM robberies by criminal gangs.

Mr Roberts said: "With the Belfast Regional City Deal given the green light this week, the Derry-Strabane Deal moving forward and progress in Belfast City Centre with the Primark Cordon, it is crucially important that our rural towns and villages are not left behind.

"There is no more important issue in forthcoming council elections than the regeneration of our towns and cities. Retail NI wants to see the newly elected Local Councils hit the ground running in May with Town and Village deals in their rural areas.
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"In our recently published 'Regeneration NI' report, Retail NI outlined the need for the establishment of a Rural Town and Village Infrastructure Fund to support the regeneration of our rural towns and villages. Investing in our rural towns should be on the list of key infrastructure projects, alongside the A5, A6, York Street Interchange and the Belfast Transport Hub."

Mr Roberts also called for a rural small business strategy to support existing businesses and the next generation of SMEs, as well as a review of rural transport connectivity and accelerated progress on the rollout of high speed broadband in remote areas.

He continued: "The rural economy as a whole is facing a huge challenge with the potential loss of ATMs as a result of the recent robberies and the loss of the rural rate relief for bank machines.

"If the criminal gangs behind these ATM robberies are not stopped there is a real danger many rural communities will lose local access to cash. They are attacking local family-owned small businesses which are the backbone of the rural economy, providing an invaluable service to the local community."


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