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Trader forced to relocate following Primark fire thanks major retailer who 'reached out to help'

Business owner Kathleen McGovern is to relocate shop to Queen's Arcade following the Primark fire. Picture by Hugh Russell
Marie Louise McConville

A BUSINESS owner who has been forced to relocate her Belfast city centre shop following the Primark fire is to move to a new site after a major retailer stepped in to help her.

Kathleen McGovern, who owns Abacus Beads, which had been based just yards from Bank Buildings in Castle Street for 15 years, is to set up a new store in Queens Arcade, off Royal Avenue.

Ms McGovern, who has owned her business for 27 years, is hoping to be open at her new site by next month.

She is one of 14 traders inside the cordon zone who have been left unable to open following last month's fire.

The businesswoman revealed that she had been helped in her search for new premises by a major Belfast retailer.

She said a "huge thanks" had to go out to Lunn's Jewellers "who own the Arcade and have reached out to help me in the midst of this nightmare".

Ms McGovern said the initial figures for the shop had been "beyond my budget" however when she told them what she could afford, the landlord, Lunns, agreed to let her the unit."

However, the business owner said she is now awaiting to hear further details about a financial package for traders so she can stock her new premises, as she can't gain access to her former site.

Ms McGovern was yesterday one of a number of business owners who met with Secretary-of-State Karen Bradley to discuss ongoing concerns about trading in the city centre following the fire.

She said Ms Bradley had asked to be given all available information to see "what she could do".

In a joint statement following the meeting with Karen Bradley, Belfast Chamber president Rajesh Rana, Glyn Roberts, CEO of Retail NI and Colin Neill, CEO of Hospitality Ulster, called for "innovative and long term measures" to be put in place now.

Meanwhile, Belfast City Council has "doubled" its efforts in a bid to reduce the potential for vermin to be attracted to the gutted Primark site.

As a number of food businesses inside the cordon were abandoned when the fire broke out. There are concerns that rats could be drawn to the site.

The council said staff from its environmental health team had "been on the ground carrying out regular assessments around the exclusion zone".

A spokeswoman said: "Our pest control team was out at the weekend baiting sewers in the area around the safety cordon".

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