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Shops to open later, Mall music and night-time pub and restaurant tours proposed in Armagh

Shops in Armagh could stay open later as part of efforts to boost the night-time economy in the city.

A “pilot extension of retail opening hours” would “facilitate early evening visitors”, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council has been told.

It could also tie in with meal deals and promotions and the target date for its introduction would be spring next year.

It is one of a number of ideas to help breathe new life into the city centre and boost the night-time economy.

Draft action plans have been drawn up for the city and each of the main urban centres and presented to the council’s economic committee, although final say will rest with the full council which has yet to consider the papers.

A major classical music event – in conjunction with BBC NI – could also be staged on the Mall to “make better use of this asset”.

The draft action plan also proposed making the “Shambles the hub of a family orientated evening economy” and would promote the evening use of the Shambles Market Yard for “regular drive in movie nights, twilight markets and community event”.

An ‘Armagh at Night Walking Tour’ features which would take the form of a “specific initiative to attract visitors and boost business by linking in with bars and restaurants using NFC apps and comms”.

It also proposes working with taxi companies to “develop a safe taxi charter mark” with a taxi rank located in Lower English Street

It would be hoped to build on existing events including Georgian Day and 7 Hills Blues Festival, bringing these together into a package/programme.

The draft plan also advocates the potential of ‘Instameets’ – saying this would give a boost for the profile and presence of evening and night-time economy in Armagh. This would see Instagrammers meeting up to take photos and videos together of special places or events.

As revealed previously by Armagh I , a lighting strategy would be a major lift by highlighting the city’s key features similar to what is being done in other major cities across the UK.

The draft action plan states: “Armagh City will offer a full spectrum of evening to night time economy offer, befitting city status, acting as a major draw to position the borough’s wider evening economy offer.

“The focus will be on heritage and culture – traditional, authentic pubs with good craic, music and storytelling, a varied theatre programme and targeted evening activity in the historic buildings, attractions and Shambles Market Yard.

“The evening economy will support key events such as Georgian Day and the St Patrick’s International Festival.

“Tying in with the Food Heartland initiative, the evening economy will showcase the award winning quality restaurants, local food and drink, particularly cider, and focus on safety and an authentic welcome.”

Beyond the 12 month action plan target – which would take over £240,000 to deliver as it stands – future areas to be looked at would include the need to enhance accommodation offering, music festivals, planting strategy, heritage signage, free standing electronic information points, an in- built heritage trail with pavement directions to guide visitors, better walks and green links.

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