Amplify Mid and East Antrim

Belfast Region City Deal

A City Deal is a bespoke package of funding and decision making powers agreed between central government and local regions, aimed at helping to harness additional investment, create new jobs and accelerate inclusive economic growth.

The goal is to use this opportunity to secure £1 billion of investment from a range of sources. This will accelerate inclusive economic growth for the whole region and deliver up to 20,000 new and better jobs across Northern Ireland, accessible to people from all communities.

The Belfast Region City Deal (BRCD) comprises the six councils of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough CouncilArds and North Down Borough Council, Belfast City CouncilLisburn and Castlereagh City CouncilNewry, Mourne and Down District Council and ourselves, working in partnership with Queen’s University Belfast, Ulster University, the Further Education colleges across the Belfast Region and the Northern Ireland Civil Service.

The Belfast Region Investment Guide is available to download from the InvestinBelfast.com website.

Please note that the information provided on the following Belfast Region City Deal projects is correct at the time of publishing, however the projects may be subject to change going forward.

Mid and East Antrim City Deal Proposals

The Belfast Region City Deal (BRCD) has five key pillars:

  • Innovation
  • Digital
  • Tourism & Regeneration
  • Infrastructure
  • Skills and Employability

The BRCD signals a new opportunity for collaborative working. To make a success of the Deal, it’s important that all stakeholders work collaboratively.

The BRCD councils have agreed an integrated set of projects to transform the region’s economy. The agreed programme will seek to address a number of key barriers to growth by taking measures to improve productivity, invest in innovation, tackle economic inactivity and deprivation, address skills gaps and inequalities, invest in additional worldclass visitor experiences and develop the physical and digital infrastructure.

At the heart of the City Deal vision is a drive to deliver inclusive growth and to focus efforts on areas in which we can become genuinely worldclass; namely digital / ICT, life and health sciences, creative industries,  advanced manufacturing and tourism.

We are taking forward three key projects under the BRCD:

  1. Carrickfergus Regeneration
  2. i4c Innovation Centre at Saint Patrick’s Barracks regeneration site
  3. The Gobbins – Phase 2

Carrickfergus Regeneration and The Gobbins Phase 2 are being taken forward under the Tourism and Regeneration pillar, while i4c is being taken forward through both the Tourism & Regeneration and the Digital Programme pillars.

Carrickfergus Regeneration

The project strategy rests firstly on investing in the heritage assets of Carrickfergus and its town centre in order to attract more visitors, to encourage them to stay longer and to spend more.

The strategy rests secondly on using revenue investment to further increase economic benefits, e.g. by helping town centre businesses to capture more visitor spend and to gain employment and training benefits for residents.

The Gobbins Phase 2

Based in Islandmagee, outside Whitehead in Co. Antrim, this internationally unique coastal path was a Victorian engineering feat when it was first opened to the public in 1902. In its heyday it provided some 3km of pathway and was reported to have attracted more visitors than the Giant’s Causeway, but in subsequent years fell into disuse.

The restoration of The Gobbins in 2015 saw The Gobbins Coastal and Cliff Path Phase I project complete works that opened just over 1km of the cliff face coastal path and a similar cliff top path at a cost of £7.5m, including investment in a Visitor Centre which provides the departure point for every tour.

Although The Gobbins has been successful in attracting visitors, there are a number of operational, health and safety and capacity restrictions that are preventing the site from realising its full potential.

The case being presented to invest in The Gobbins Phase 2 project aims to address operational, health and safety and capacity restrictions, unlocking the potential of The Gobbins, significantly increasing capacity and making it a more complete and enjoyable visitor experience.

The improvements to be delivered under this project will make The Gobbins a world-class tourism offering and provide an anchor visitor attraction at the southern end of the Causeway Coastal Route (CCR), helping to ensure a more even distribution of visitors along the CCR and facilitating a more even spread of economic benefits across the Belfast City Deal region.

i4c Innovation Centre @ Saint Patrick’s

The i4c proposal focuses on the development of a new Innovation Centre and innovation district ecosystem in the heart of Ballymena co-funded with financial support from the Belfast Region City Deal. The i4c building would comprise a mix of incubation labs and workshops for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), premium innovation office accommodation including co-working space for rent, and the iLAB industry makerspace - a focal point for SME research and development and innovation activity in the Borough. This i4c offer would creating an environment for open innovation and collaboration.

The building will have strong environmental design credentials and be designed for post-Covid working realities including touchless controls and smart ventilation and will be located in a high quality built environment at Saint Patrick’s Barracks. It has been intentionally sited adjacent to the new campus planned for the Northern Regional College and is also situated in close proximity to the town centre services and amenities and key recreational and environmental assets including the extensive Ecos Parkland and the Ballymena Showgrounds complex.

Other City Deal Funding Opportunities

The Mid and East Antrim City Deal opportunity is not just restricted to these three key projects. There will be opportunities presented under the Skills and Employability pillar and future challenge fund calls made under the Digital Pillar where firms can bid for competitive funds most likely on a thematic or sectoral needs basis.

Next Steps

The Outline Business cases for the three MEA project proposals are currently being finalised and are subject to a checkpoint review exercise for alignment with BRCD and NI government strategy. It is anticipated they will be submitted to the City Deal funding programme for review in late 2020. Following this, it will be decided if the projects can proceed to Full Business Case, with a decision expected in early 2021.

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