12 °CTue, 23

'Game-changing' project earmarked for Council

Jane Witherspoon

Reporter:

Jane Witherspoon

Belfast Region City Deal partners, including Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, have submitted their ambitious negotiating position to Westminster today in a bid to secure £1bn of City Deal investment.

The substantial economic opportunity includes tens of millions of pounds of proposed investment in Mid and East Antrim, including plans to extend The Gobbins cliff path, the regeneration of Carrickfergus and the creation of an advanced manufacturing innovation and inspiration hub at the St Patrick’s site in Ballymena.

The deal sets out a vision to create 20,000 new and better-paid jobs across the region’s growth sectors; pushing the ‘fast-forward’ button on inclusive economic growth and ensuring opportunities are accessible across all of our communities.

It will also improve infrastructure, digital connectivity, visitor attractions and innovation hubs; and deliver a major skills and employability programme.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, alongside the other local authority partners, have been working in close collaboration with the Northern Ireland Civil Service, Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Treasury as well as our Universities and Further Education Colleges to agree the priority projects for submission to Westminster.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Lindsay Millar, said: “The number one strategic priority of our council is growing the economy.

“We’re delighted that we are now starting our negotiations to secure this significant investment into the borough and Northern Ireland as a whole.

“These potentially game-changing projects would greatly enhance Mid and East Antrim as an attractive place to live, work, visit and invest in.

“By working together, we can deliver more jobs, visitors and economic growth for our local people.”

Chair of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Economic Growth and Tourism Committee, Alderman Gregg McKeen, said: “We have committed to creating a vibrant business culture and we are proactively seeking to build on our strengths in advanced manufacturing and agri-food, while supporting the growth of new industry sectors, including digital, tourism, financial and business services.

“It’s been a long road to get here and no doubt there will be challenges ahead, but working together, the City Deal partners will continue to secure the best value for the people of Mid and East Antrim and Northern Ireland as a whole.”

Chief Executive of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Anne Donaghy said: “As a council, we are fully committed to supporting business growth and development, and promoting an environment that encourages and facilitates investment in our borough.

“To do that we have evolved, adopting a private-sector approach to improve our own efficiency and ensure we are embedded in the local business community to understand exactly what they need.

“The Belfast Region City Deal is vital to our ambitious vision and blueprint for a vibrant economy in Mid and East Antrim, and Northern Ireland.”

Following months of intensive preparations, a number of projects have been submitted and the Belfast Region City Deal could deliver:

- We want to be world renowned for innovation; so we’re creating a Global Innovation Institute that will leverage our universities’ research capabilities to drive connectivity and help businesses in priority growth sectors derive value from data.

- Other centres of innovation will give our most rapidly growing business sectors (advanced manufacturing, creative industries and life and health sciences) access to cutting edge technologies and expertise, including a ‘factory of the future’.

- We’ll prioritise significant investment in a Smart District, technology testbeds and next generation digital connectivity to enable businesses across the region to connect to new markets and opportunities.

·- We want to keep tourists here longer, so we’re investing in additional world class, authentic visitor attractions which will attract both domestic and international visitors.

- And we’ll create and deliver an extensive employability and skills programme, incorporating apprenticeship schemes, with a specific focus on digital skills, so that we can make sure that people are ready to secure the jobs of the future.

Already, the City Deal process has helped to establish a genuinely collaborative working relationship across the region, with all partners focused on delivering the best package possible.

It’s spearheading a new way of working for councils, the broader public sector, education and business. In an unprecedented approach, BRCD partners Queen’s University and Ulster University are working together to develop integrated projects in Digital, Creative Industries, Advanced Manufacturing and Health, to invigorate the economy.

The partners anticipate that an announcement will be made in the Autumn Budget statement which would give them the green light to work up the proposals further.

For more information you can go to www.midandeastantrim.gov.uk and follow #BRcitydeal on Twitter.

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