Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s rural towns are set to celebrate Christmas with a festive drive-in movie experience this year, with plans for the events recommended for approval by Council’s economic development and regeneration committee.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the committee on Tuesday, October 12, where members agreed to the delivery of a Christmas festive drive-in movie programme for the borough’s rural towns.
Members also agreed to approve free car parking in the borough’s urban centres on Christmas Eve (Friday, December 24).
In September, the committee requested further consideration be given to the possibility of holding twilight Christmas markets in rural towns and villages.
Officers informed members that while a series of mini-twilight markets has the potential to positively impact local businesses, resourcing the markets in rural towns and villages in addition to existing commitments may prove challenging at this time for Council.
The report also advised that any such event would need to take place on private land and the cost of delivering this option would be approximately £50,000 in addition to promotion and staffing resources.
With regards to the festive drive-in movie programme, officers advised similar events were a “huge success” in September this year and explained they would bring something new to rural towns and villages.
However, members were also advised that suitable locations need to be sourced and agreed in each area as the required licence takes 60 working days to process and the location on the licence is non-transferable.
The cost of this option is estimated at £40,000 in addition to promotion and staffing resource. With all things considered, officers recommended the delivery of option two.
The rural towns officers included in the report are Donaghcloney, Keady, Richhill, Tandragee and Waringstown.
DUP group leader, Councillor Mark Baxter proposed the officers’ recommendation to go with the festive drive in experience and said “it would be very welcome, especially in those rural communities”.
Councillor Paul Berry welcomed the proposal but noted Markethill was not included in the list of towns mentioned and proposed it was included.
Council’s head of economic development services, Nicola Wilson confirmed Markethill could be included if councillors want.
Noting Council has a duty of care to the general public, Councillor Kyle Savage seconded the proposal to accept the recommendation and praised council officers for “taking and showing true leadership” with this recommendation.
Noting he was happy to go with the proposal for the festive drive-in, despite public health regulations relaxing further at the end of October, Councillor Sam Nicholson said he would second Cllr Berry’s proposal to include Markethill in the proposal.
“I support Cllr Berry’s call to include Markethill. It is one of our most thriving and vibrant market towns,” he said.
“If Councillor Berry is making a proposal to include it, I am happy to second it.”
Alderman Ian Burns said he was fully supportive of the proposal but called for the towns of Gilford and Rathfriland to also be recognised.
Councillor Thomas O’Hanlon said he would prefer to see twilight markets in the rural towns but with the movie night proposal he would want to ensure that “providing it can be worked into costs, it is run in as many of our rural towns as possible”.
Alderman Jim Speers said he had discussed this issue “at length” with Council officers and acknowledged the need for as many places as possible to get an event like this.
“I am very supportive of the need to have this event in Markethill but if we do that in one place other towns will feel they have been short-changed.
“I have already had that conversation with officers and I would like to see us get to the point where this is rolled out across the area.”
The committee then voiced its approval for Councillor Baxter’s proposal to recommend the movie night and free Christmas Eve car parking is approved and Cllr Berry’s proposal to incorporate as many smaller towns as budgets will allow.