Supporting business growth and rationalising vacancy in the urban centres

We have launched a further call for the Urban Investment Fund which will support the economic growth and resilience of the urban centres of Lisburn, Dundonald and Carryduff.  It will provide grants for interior and exterior improvements to commercial buildings, expansions or repurposing of premises.

In this call, grant aid will be prioritised to encourage new business into the urban centres, particularly focusing on fashion retail. We are welcoming new businesses that are currently not represented in our urban centres or business that will help to support the night time economy.

We will again support existing businesses to diversify their current offer through repurposing of vacant units (to include unused areas of their current premises).

Aim of the fund

The Urban Investment Fund aims to:

1. Improve the offer in the urban centres of Lisburn, Dundonald and Carryduff by reducing the current vacancy rates and attracting new businesses into the centres.  Please view the boundary maps on this link

2.  Decrease the number of vacant units in the urban centres by offering financial assistance to existing businesses to offset capital costs or repurpose their existing business premises.  

3.  Decrease the number of vacant units in the urban centres by offering financial assistance to new businesses who wish to occupy a vacant property.

Available funding

The funding pot is currently £100,000 and allocation will be subject to change based on the number of eligible applications received.

Successful businesses will be required to match fund 10% of the total costs including any VAT or legal fees incurred.

Funding is allocated based on business footprint.  The following three packages are available:

1. For businesses with a footprint of less than 100 square metres (sqm) the grant will be up to £7,500, which the business must match fund by 10%. This measurement does not include storerooms, kitchens or bathrooms. 

2. For businesses with a footprint of between 100 and 150sqm the grant will be up to £15,000, which the business must match fund by 10%. This measurement does not include storerooms, kitchens or bathrooms.

3. For businesses with a footprint of 151sqm and over the grant will be up to £25,000, which the business must match fund by 10%. This measurement does not include storerooms, kitchens or bathrooms. 

The funding allocated will be based on the number of businesses invited to full application and will depend on each business case.

Preference will be given to business with on-street frontage.


The award of the grants will be at our discretion.

What can the grant pay for?

Minimum consideration for funding

Works to frontage of the unit(s), interior refurbishment works and/or utilising previous unused space to repurpose the business i.e. a second or third floor space.

Eligible costs:

  • improvement works to vacant unit(s) which are required to improve the building and allow a business to commence trading
  • replacement of doors/ windows/flooring, electrical works, plumbing works, minor construction works such as knocking down walls/ roof repairs etc. i.e. any works required to allow a business to commence/continue trading may be considered
  • internal modifications to vacant properties which includes shop fit-out, subdivision of, internal decorations, flooring, mechanical and electrical works with a view to improving the vacant property (works must be approved by property owner)
  • external facades and signage
  • maintenance works to include removal of redundant signage, cleaning (power washing), clearing of debris and repairs of decorative features

Ineligible costs:

  • any costs or projects which are clearly another statutory agency’s responsibility
  • insurance costs
  • interest / banking fees
  • rates
  • projects situated outside the Lisburn and Castlereagh urban centres as denoted by BMAP. Please view the boundary maps on this link
  • costs incurred prior to a letter of offer from the council (retrospective funding)
  • costs which are not clearly linked to the project
  • costs that are assessed as poor value for money, or that are purchased not following council procurement guidelines
  • costs that are already covered by other funding or income sources
  • VAT related cost
  • planning, legal costs
  • costs which are deemed excessive by council’s QS Team
  • cash expenditure will not be eligible for refund from the council

Please note: 
Any significant alterations to the works that were agreed at application stage must be approved by us in advance as still being eligible for funding.

Who can apply?

The scheme will assist:

  • new businesses, ideally, in fashion retail or a unique business to the urban centre's wishing to renovate a vacant property
  • an existing business planning to diversify their current offer through repurposing an unused area within their premises
Business owners must show a holding a lease of a minimum of three years or proof of ownership.

Please note grants will not be awarded to businesses who are closing an existing unit to open in an alternative premises.

Applications will be assessed as a grant to the proprietor of the business.

If demand exceeds the amount of funding that is available, priority will be given to businesses which provide a different or ‘enhanced’ offer; are likely to create more jobs and footfall; will be part of the evening economy.

Applicant eligibility

The scheme allows potential new businesses to apply for an improvement grant to renovate vacant units and allows existing businesses who wish to repurpose and diversify their business or part thereof. Properties must be located within the defined urban centre boundaries to include Dundonald and Carryduff. Please refer to the boundary maps on this link

Eligible applicants will:

  • occupy vacant properties
  • repurpose existing properties or part thereof
  • improve the city and urban centres and complement what is currently on offer
  • demonstrate how repurposing existing businesses will benefit the Urban Centres and the business. 
  • create a viable and sustainable business investment opportunity
  • demonstrate value for money will be achieved in the cost of the works
  • applications are limited to one per property
  • a minimum 3 year lease is required
  • preference will be given to business with on-street frontage
  • preference will be given to evening economy businesses
  • preference will be given to `unique` businesses
Applicants who were not successful in the previous calls of this scheme are not eligible to re-apply.

We will have the ultimate decision in determining the types of business that are eligible for grant funding assistance. This will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Whilst we recognise all business types have their place on the high street, over concentration of certain types of shops make the centres less appealing to both visitors and investors. This scheme is to encourage new business types and activities which will improve the perception of the area and increase footfall. 

Non eligible businesses include (but are not limited to):

  • pay day loan shops
  • betting/ gambling shops
  • charity shops
  • pawn shops
  • vape shops
  • adult shops
  • budget/pound shops
  • temporary shops

Guidance notes

The scheme is a three stage process.  

This first stage is an expression of interest which will be used to shape and inform the scheme and understand the need of the businesses.

Following the completion of expressions of interest successful applicants will be invited to full application stage.

After a successful full application stage a letter of offer will be made.

Application process

The scheme will assist new businesses who are interested in setting up in the urban centres and existing businesses who wish to repurpose their premises or part thereof to adapt their business.
It is important that improvements carried out within this scheme are appropriate to the character of the urban area they sit within and that a high standard of materials and workmanship are used. 

Please note: Businesses located or wishing to locate in the conservation area must liaise directly with the planning Conservation Offer in order to ensure adherence to conservation guidelines.

Applications will be assessed in two stages with the third stage being a letter of offer if successful.

1.  Expressions of interest

This open call is available to new businesses or existing businesses repurposing their offer. 

The following basic eligibility criteria applies and will be assessed on a pass/fail basis as part of the evaluation process:

  1. The property must be located in Lisburn City Centre or the urban centres of Carryduff or Dundonald 
  2. The property must be vacant or being repurposed by an existing business
  3. The Business must have a minimum of three years remaining on their Lease
Expressions of interest to be received no later than 12 noon Monday 15 April 2024.

2.  Grant application

In order to progress this stage, the applicant will be required to provide further details of the proposed works.

Full application will include the provision of:

a) confirmation of engagement with competent architect (contact details must be provided)
b) an outline project plan providing detailed information about the project/concept design (please provide images/drawings separately)
c) written quotations for proposed works demonstrating value for money has been achieved (see procurement section for details)
d) written confirmation from the local planning department that details all necessary statutory consents required to carry out your project (including but not limited to: planning permission, advertising consent, listed building consent, building control consent, change of use etc.)
e) confirmation that 10% match funding in place with the applicant
f) evidence of security of tenure and written consent from property owner

If your application is successful, confirmation will be sent via email, detailing the amount of grant you are eligible for and match funding required. Your letter of offer will be issued to you upon receipt of your planning reference number.

The deadline for applications is 12 noon Monday 13 May 2024.

3. Letter of offer

A letter of offer will be provided via email, detailing the amount of grant awarded, on provision of the following:

  • architectural drawings of the proposed works submitted to planning
  • the appropriate planning reference number
We understand this process can be lengthy so please allow for time to consult with planning and provide final drawings in order to secure planning approval. 

Drawings should be shown to scale e.g. 1:100. To ensure clarity of shop front detail, include elevation drawings at a scale of 1:20 and section drawings at 1:10 as appropriate.

The final deadline for the planning submission and reference number is 12 noon Monday 1 July 2024.


Evidence must be made available to demonstrate that that the applicant has endeavoured to obtain quotations for each element of the works provided from a reputable supplier.

Whilst preferably all quotes are to be submitted as part of the grant application, please see the quotation thresholds below.

We do understand they can be difficult to obtain at this stage but applicants should note that all quotes must be in place before any grant payments can be made.

Grant funding will not be paid out on work that has been carried out without receiving a quotation unless it has been previously agreed with the council.

Expenditure   Number of quotations
Up to £500   Two verbal quotations
£501 - £3,000  2-3 companies should be contacted by email to show that value for money has been sought
£3,001 - £15,000  Three written quotations required
£5,001 - £30,000   Four written quotations required