MINISTER of State with the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), Robin Walker MP, visited The Braid in Ballymena this week to hear updates on Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s City Deal development projects.
The Minister was told of the ‘significant progress’ which continues to be made on plans including a £26 million innovation centre which will form a key part of the regeneration of the former St Patrick’s Barracks site in Ballymena.
An extension to the award-winning Gobbins cliff path and the regeneration of Carrickfergus are also proposed to receive funding through the Belfast Region City Deal.
Mr Walker’s visit follows round-table discussions with Chief Executives from a number of other Northern Ireland councils at Stormont House last month.
During his visit to Ballymena, the Minister met with Mid and East Antrim Mayor, Cllr Maureen Morrow, Chief Executive Anne Donaghy, elected members and senior Council Officers.
The Northern Ireland Office plays an important role in the delivery of City and Growth Deals in Northern Ireland, linking with HM Treasury, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Northern Ireland Executive.
Amongst Mr Walker’s ministerial responsibilities are City Deals and ensuring linkages between Westminster and devolved institutions.
The Minister was interested to hear about the Mid and East Antrim City Deal projects, as well as, according to a council press release, “the huge potential” of the Heathrow Expansion Logistics Hub.
He encouraged the council to continue to progress the projects and deliver the potential the opportunities present, and asked to be kept updated on work to support investment to encourage economic growth across the regions, such as the South West Scotland A75/A77 transport infrastructure.
Mayor Cllr Maureen Morrow said afterwards: “I am delighted that Minister Walker MP accepted Council’s invitation to visit Mid and East Antrim and hear about the ongoing work to progress our City Deal development projects.
“We took the opportunity to engage the Minister on the importance of these projects to Council being able to deliver on its Corporate Plan objectives, and to our economic fightback in the face of a number of major job losses in the borough in recent years.
“Council will continue to prioritise Mid and East Antrim as a key player in the future economic success of Northern Ireland through the innovative City Deal and Heathrow Logistics Hub proposals.”