‘Game-changing’ projects earmarked for Mid and East Antrim as part of £1 billion Belfast Region City Deal plans

Gobbins 3 (3)
The Gobbins.

Belfast Region City Deal partners, including Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, have submitted their negotiating position to Westminster  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.

The partner councils include Antrim and Newtownabbey, Ards and North Down, Belfast, Lisburn and Castlereagh, Newry, Mourne and Down.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Lindsay Millar, said the City Deal proposals demonstrated huge potential for economic growth and investment in the borough and throughout Northern Ireland.

She 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.

“I’m delighted we are at the stage where our projects are submitted and the negotiations can begin.

“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.

“We focus our efforts on being an enabler to the wealth creators.

“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.

“Together with the backing of our elected representatives – who have demonstrated unwavering support to our focus on economic growth – we have introduced and delivered a number of initiatives which have the potential to transform the economy in this borough.

“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.”

Antrim and Newtownabbey’s Mayor, Councillor Paul Michael, has welcomed the Belfast Region City Deal proposal and the boost it will give the Antrim and Newtownabbey area.

The Mayor was addressing businesses and other guests at his Inaugural Dinner in the Dunadry Hotel.

Councillor Paul Michael said: “To say this is an exciting venture for the six Councils involved would be to completely undersell it – this has the potential to be a game changer for the Belfast region and our Borough.

“The Deal seeks to secure a £1 billion investment with £450 million sought from the UK Treasury to support Digital and Innovation projects, to be delivered over a 10-year period including a major development by Queen’s University Belfast.

“Queen’s propose establishing an Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre to promote the adoption of new manufacturing and material technologies and deliver productivity improvements.

“This facility will operate at the interface between academia and industry, accelerating new technology developments and will see the development of 8,000 square metres of floor space.

“We are delighted that the Borough is being considered as one of the potential locations for this facility.

“Other aspects of the proposition will see an investment of £450 million in infrastructure, including the expansion of the Belfast Rapid Transit or Glider project into Antrim and Newtownabbey.

“A suite of Employability and Skills programmes will support those in the labour market to upskill and progress whilst enabling others into employment for the first time.

“Tourism-led regeneration also features in the proposition and we were delighted that on 24 September, HBO announced their intentions to secure the legacy of Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland, by opening up four of the existing film sets as visitor experiences – including the Winterfell Castle in Moneyglass.

“I personally, and my fellow Councillors, are thrilled by this development which will bring a unique tourist attraction to the Borough, offering employment, supporting our accommodation and transport providers and increasing awareness of our other attractions. We are very much looking forward to working with HBO, in anticipation of the attraction opening in July 2019. “

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