A council-run initiative to help businesses in rural villages pay for shopfront ‘makeovers’ has opened today!

Through the ‘Rural Shopfront Scheme’, Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council is giving eligible businesses the opportunity to apply for funding of up to £12,500 so they can refresh their signage and facades. Its aim is to improve the appearance and condition of commercial shopfronts and create more attractive places for people to live, work and visit.

The scheme is open to businesses situated in small settlements across the Lisburn Castlereagh area including Aghalee, Annahilt, Dromara, Drumbeg, Glenavy, Upper and Lower Ballinderry, Maghaberry, Milltown and Moneyreagh.

The ‘Rural Shopfront Scheme’ is part of the COVID-19 Recovery Small Settlement Regeneration Programme which is funded by the Department for Communities, the Department for Infrastructure and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.

Alderman Allan Ewart MBE, Chair of the council’s Development Committee, said: "Attractive shopfronts add to the visual appeal of a village and those that are in keeping with the architecture and character of the buildings add charm and encourage shoppers to visit.

“Our recent shopfront schemes have proved really successful and we have seen beautiful restorations of Victorian features as well as new signage and fresh paintwork.

“Businesses within conservation areas have been able to benefit from these types of schemes too - and I am looking forward to seeing the positive changes this funding can bring.”

Gerard Murray, Director of Regional Development from DfC, commented: “The Covid Recovery Small Settlements Regeneration Programme is a joint DfC/DAERA/DfI Programme that has provided councils with over £26m to reinvigorate the post-pandemic economy of our smaller rural towns. It is hoped that initiatives such as the Rural Shopfront Scheme will help regenerate these smaller villages and towns by improving the appearance and condition of the existing shopfronts, therefore making these areas more attractive for shoppers and visitors and also encouraging new businesses to invest in our smaller settlements.”

David Reid, Deputy Secretary with responsibility for rural affairs, commented: ‘The retail sector of our small rural towns and villages are at the heart of their communities and it is great to be able to invest in them, particularly at a time when the economy is under such pressure. This investment will hopefully lead to some job creation as well’.

To download an expression of interest form, please visit: www.lisburncastlereagh.gov.uk/business/rural-shop-front-scheme

For more information, contact Becky Colvin via email becky.colvin@lisburncastlereagh.gov.uk

The deadline to submit an Expression of Interest is 5pm on Wednesday, 8th March 2023. Once received, these will be assessed and successful submissions will be invited to complete a full application in due course.