Page last updated at 06:54 GMT, Thursday, 9 April 2009 07:54 UK

Trading for a living in Limavady

Limavady Borough has ancient woodlands, pristine beaches, and the worst unemployment rates in Northern Ireland.

It's just over six months since Seagate Technologies in the town closed with the loss of almost 1,000 jobs, and the local economy shows no sign of recovery.

In the second of two in-depth reports, Freya McClements of BBC News looks at the situation facing traders in Limavady town centre.

Irish Green Street, Limavady
Irish Green Street in the centre of Limavady

"I find it a bit of a ghost town now.

"I'm waiting to see the tumbleweed blowing up the street, there's so little traffic."

William Carty has lived in Limavady for more than 70 years. He and his wife Anne still shop in the town, but say it isn't what it was.

"We lived in all the good times, bringing up our family in the 50s, 60s and 70s, but those times are gone and they'll never be back.

"Limavady started out as a small agricultural town with cattle markets, and it's going to go back to something like that," said Mr Carty.

"The choice is limited," said Mrs Carty. "You have to go to Coleraine or Derry or Belfast for anything more.

"I don't blame the shopkeepers, it's hard for them.

"We just have to make the best of a bad job amid all this doom and gloom."

Factfile: Limavady Borough
Population 34,000
Main towns are Limavady and Dungiven
Tourist attractions include Benone Strand and Banagher Glen
Annual Danny Boy Festival celebrates its musical heritage

Businesswoman Margaret Cooper agrees.

She has run Roe Valley Furnishings on Irish Green Street for 24 years, and says trade has slowed.

"When you look out on the street it's just dead," she said.

"Limavady has lost so much. There are so few jobs available, and people are so uncertain.

"When people have lost their jobs they're not going to spend money, and they can do without my goods.

"I can't see things getting any better any time soon."

Independent, family-owned businesses form the majority of Limavady town centre.

This has protected the town from the worst of the retail job losses caused by recession, but the collapse of manufacturing, construction, and the departure of the Ministry of Defence from Shackleton barracks in Ballykelly have left 6.1% of the borough's working-age population unemployed.

Almost 25% of all redundancies - a total of 769 - in Northern Ireland last year were in Limavady.

Surviving recession

Paul Beattie, the development services manager with Limavady Borough Council, says small businesses are the only way to ensure the town has an economic future.

"We're a small council, we don't have that much money, but everything we do will have to be concentrated on making sure that those who survive this credit crunch are able to come out the other side and trade," he said.

"Our elected members here take the job situation very seriously, and we have invested money through job fairs which have seen a couple of hundred people placed.

"We aim to provide an environment where our small businesses can hold on and survive until the worst of this is over."

Tough times in Limavady, but it could be worse, says the president of the Roe Valley Chamber of Commerce, Cyril Roulston.

Red shoe shop, Limavady
Red shoe shop on Market Street is shortly to move to bigger premises

"Four new businesses have opened in Limavady in the last four weeks, which shows that people do have confidence in the town," he said.

"Unemployment is high, the number of redundancies is high, but there's a feeling that we are not the worst off in this town.

"Our local businesses are an example of what can be done, and we have a core of businesses here that will always be here because they are inherent within the community and the community supports them."

One of those who is upbeat about the situation is Emma Halcrow.

She opened Red shoe shop on Market Street five years ago, and is about to move to bigger premises.

"The business has grown as much as it can where I am and there are more things I'd like to do and I can only do that in a bigger shop," she said.

"Things have definitely picked up since Christmas. All you heard before was doom and gloom, and there isn't as much of that now and it does have a big effect.

"People are still buying, the sales figures have picked up since January, and I think people have a brighter outlook now.

"After all, a lady can never have too many pairs of shoes."

In Part One on Wednesday, Freya McClements spoke to people who are looking for work in Limavady.



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