Council chief confident St Patrick’s Barracks ‘Science Park’ plans will ‘remain on the table’ despite Westminster aid falling short of what was hoped for

The entrance to the former St Patrick’s army barracks in Ballymena. Now there are multi-million pound plans to redevelop the site. Picture – Google Maps.

A COUNCIL official is confident multi-million pound plans including the redevelopment of the former St Patrick’s Barracks site in Ballymena as a ‘Science Park’ will “remain on the table” despite a government cash contribution falling short of what had been hoped for.

Anne Donaghy, Chief Executive of Mid & East Antrim Borough Council, told councillors this week that although Westminster pledged more than £90 million less for the Belfast City Deal project than what had been bid for, detailed business cases will now be drawn up.

Ms Donaghy told the full monthly meeting of the Council that the whole Belfast City Deal – which includes plans for St Patrick’s as well as an extension at The Gobbins cliff path; regeneration in Carrickfergus and schemes in five other council areas – had initially hoped to attract £442 million from the Treasury in London.

However, although she said the £350 million agreed in Westminster was very much welcome it was £92.4 million below what had been hoped for.

The overall plan is to spend £1 billion on projects in the six council areas to create thousands of jobs.

Ms Donaghy now said her council will be trying to make up the shortfall with private sector contributions.

However, she told councillors she feels very confident the Mid & East Antrim projects will “remain on the table”.

She said detailed business cases will now have to be drawn up and plans will then be subjected to feedback and public consultation.

The St Patrick’s site plan involves the creation of an Innovation and Inspiration Centre.

A council report shows the £1billion funding package was to be made up of three parts – £450 million from Westminster; a similar amount from Stormont and £100 million from the councils involved.

The report said: “Mid & East Antrim Borough Council (MEABC) projects totalled almost £80million and required a £16.2 million contribution from Council which members agreed at a special council meeting on 14 September, 2018.

“In support of MEABC’s projects the Chief Executive has already secured additional funds from a number of central government departments including the Department of Infrastructure; Department of Communities (DfC) Regeneration and Historic Environment Division (currently an additional £19.2million).”

The report said the handover of the Belfast City Region bid took place in London on October 24 and the delegation included councillors from Mid & East Antrim and was ‘attended by a number of local businesses who extended their support to the Mid & East Antrim bid.

‘These included senior representatives from Moy Park, Clarke Facades, IPC Mouldings, Galgorm Resort & Spa and Michelin Development Fund.

‘Due to similarities and complimentary with Council’s i4C project (at the St Patrick’s site) an invitation was extended to Lord (Andrew) Mawson to visit Mid & East Antrim in order to assist us in scoping out our project and examining the opportunities to work together going forward’.

Looking at the St Patrick’s plans, the report said: ‘The first phase of this innovation led regeneration scheme will enable the development of a next generation science park on a key site in the borough.

‘The proposed Integrated Industrial, Inspiration and Innovation campus (i4C) will be developed on he former military site …and will incorporate site enablement, digital innovation space and advanced manufacturing capabilities.

‘Total cost: a total of £26million from City Deal with an additional £11.2m from DfC for the new road.

Meanwhile, the council report says the plan for The Gobbins is to extend the cliff and coastal path to Heddles Port, doubling the length to 1.5 miles to ‘also deliver a new adventure experience’.

Part of it would include a ‘new light roped bridge and other high adventure type structures’.

The report says £12million has been set aside for that.

Another part of the City Deal plan is a digital programme of investment which would cost a total of £480 million across the region.

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