PLAY equipment for town centres like Ballymena is being looked at as part of a Covid-19 ‘Recovery Revitalisation Scheme,’ a report prepared for councillors reveals.
Development of a ‘discount app’ to encourage people to shop local is also part of the plans.
A report tabled for councillors at a meeting in Ballymena of Mid & East Antrim Borough Council this week said the Council had received £428,000 from the Department for Communities (DfC) and Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) as part of a Covid-19 Recovery Revitalisation Scheme.
The report said the second tranche of funding is expected to include allocations from both DfC and DAERA and ‘equates to £444,000 which Council can expect to receive by early November 2020’.
The report said £278,000 was allocated to a Small Grants Scheme for eligible businesses located in Ballymena, Larne and Carrickfergus town centres as well as the villages of Ahoghill, Broughshane, Cullybackey and Whitehead.
The report continued: ‘Applicants had to apply via Council’s online portal, which opened on 1 September 2020 and closed on 28 September 2020.
‘210 applications were received and officers are currently working through the applications.
‘The uptake from the rural areas has been poor with the majority of application, approximately 200, covering the town centre areas.
‘Following discussions with the funders it has been agreed that Council can consider extending the boundary to focus on rural based businesses rather than the four villages that were previously included.’
The report said that by the time the report was prepared £196,000 had been allocated – £176,000 to town centres and £20,000 to rural areas.
The report goes on: ‘Progress is continuing on the other aspects of the Covid Recovery Fund including:
‘* Procurement of hand sanitiser stations to be located in high footfall locations;
‘* Procurement of street furniture, this includes a modern bench with canopy, light, bike stand and e-charging port which is solar powered;
‘* Development of a discount app and associated website that would encourage customers to shop local;
‘* Procurement of innovative new outdoor play equipment for town centre use;
‘* Purchase of new festive lighting and seasonal lighting in each of the towns;
‘* Environmental improvements to include green walls and small regeneration schemes throughout all three towns.’
Meanwhile, councillors were told the ‘Town Centre Recovery Task Force’ continues to meet.
The report adds: ‘Another priority focus is determining the level of vacancies and dereliction across the three towns.
‘Officers have been tasked with conducting a vacancy audit and identifying ownership’.