In a speech to the Ulster Bank ‘Surviving the High Street’ this morning, Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts made a plea for our rural towns and villages not be left behind while the City Deals progress.
Mr Roberts also warned that rural communities face the loss of access to cash unless the criminal gangs behind the ATM robberies are stopped.
Glyn 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.
“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.
“We need to see a rural small business strategy established to provide support for existing businesses and the next generation of SME’s, a review of rural transport connectivity and faster progress on the rollout for rural high-speed broadband.
“The rural economy as a whole is facing a huge challenge with the potential loss of ATM’s 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.”