Belfast Region City Deal
The highly ambitious Belfast Region City Deal (BRCD) arrives at a critical time. This substantial financial commitment from the UK Government, NI Executive and BRCD partners, which will be further supplemented by private sector investment, represents a £1billion investment in key sectors of our economy.
The Deal will generate up to 20,000 jobs as it is delivered over the next 10 - 15 years - an exciting, once in a generation opportunity to accelerate economic growth for the region in an inclusive and sustainable way.
The Executive’s Economic Recovery Action Plan acknowledged that rebuilding the local economy will require the region to successfully adapt to the ‘new normal’ created by Covid-19, the UK’s exit from the European Union and the imperative for action on climate change; and to deliver that change within constrained budgets. The scale of the challenge that these circumstances have created will require an integrated ‘economy wide’ response. The BRCD will
deliver projects that are uniquely placed to support recovery, facilitating investment in businesses and in sectors which have the greatest potential for longterm growth, driving productivity and creating and sustaining jobs.
We are confident of our ability to overcome present challenges and to drive sustainable economic growth long into the future, building on key assets in terms of our workforce, colleges and universities and expanding businesses in a number of sectors in which we have competitive advantage.
All partners remain fully committed to delivering the Deal and ensuring that its economic impact is maximised to leverage additional investment and as a catalyst for a sustained approach to collaborative working both within the region and across NI’s other City / Growth Deals. Partners continue to take account of Covid-19 and the changing landscape it creates to ensure that all projects and programmes respond to these challenges and remain relevant, while continuing to build our key growth sectors and align with our wider inclusive growth ambitions.
The BRCD region, stretching from Mid and East Antrim to Newry, Mourne and Down, is a functional economic area based on the local authorities that comprise the Belfast Travel to Work Area. With a population of over 1 million residents, more than half of whom are under the age of 40, the BRCD region is young, ambitious and growing.
The BRCD partners comprise the six local authorities; Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Ards and North Down Borough Council, Belfast City Council, Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, the region’s two universities; Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University, and four of the region’s further education colleges; Belfast Metropolitan College, Northern Regional College, Southern Regional College and the South Eastern Regional College. These partners have worked together intensively since 2017 to secure £850 million of co-investment to support the delivery of a shared ambition to accelerate inclusive economic growth for the region and to deliver thousands of new and better jobs; with pathways and support in place to make them accessible to people from all communities.
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.
The Belfast Region City Deal (BRCD) has five key pillars:
- Tourism & Regeneration
- 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:
- Carrickfergus Regeneration
- i4c Innovation Centre at Saint Patrick’s Barracks regeneration site
- 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.
Home to one of the most impressive castles on the island, an historic harbour and lough-side setting, a stunning Norman church, impressive sections of medieval walls and one of the best series of stories and sagas in the region, the historic town of Carrickfergus has much to celebrate.
Already benefiting from close proximity to Belfast and the enduring and ever-rising appeal of the Causeway Coastal Route, further investment will regenerate, reposition and rebrand the town to place it firmly on the map as an authentic heritage-led tourism hub and the ‘must visit’ starting point of the internationally recognised Causeway Coastal Route. The planned investment in regeneration will strengthen the visitor offering at the south end of the Coastal Causeway Route giving visitors greater opportunity to consume the route as a whole, extending both their stay and their spend. It is also intended that the investment will drive additional outcomes in terms of the economic benefits to Carrickfergus town centre; provision of new training and employment opportunities and the promotion of social inclusion and well-being for local residents.
Already an established visitor attraction, the Gobbins experience offers unparalleled access to the Antrim coastline, immersing visitors in a coastal environment while connecting them to the local landscape. Its world class credentials will be secured by creating a spectacular and iconic staircase structure to link the experience across the existing cliff top and cliff face paths, creating a circular closed loop and significantly increasing visitor capacity.
The project includes a major upgrade to the cliff top path providing stunning views across the Irish Sea, and opportunities to cross a new rope bridge that stretches across the coastline below. A new cliff top Welcome Hub with amenity facilities will be provided to act as a starting point for visitors to the site. A 360⁰ immersive visualisation experience will also be delivered at the current visitor centre via a Virtual Reality Dome.
The Gobbins Phase 2 will offer an exhilarating and accessible ‘must see’ visitor attraction at the southern end of the Causeway Coastal Route.
The i4C proposal involves the construction of a new, significant scale innovation and clean technology centre for SMEs. The centre includes a range of accommodation types to facilitate SME innovation activity i.e. incubation labs and
workshops, Grade A office and co-working office space, as well as meeting and event spaces to encourage open innovation and collaboration. i4C has a Memorandum of Understanding in place with AMIC and will offer innovation programmes for SMEs in the region as well as wraparound support to tenants. The Innovation Lab (iLAB) at i4C also forms a key part of the i4C proposal allowing for an engineering staff led and well-equipped workshop that focuses on developing products, services, training and solutions for the cleantech sector across NI i.e. in the emerging hydrogen economy.
The 15-hectare mixed regeneration site is situated in the heart of the town and will act as a catalyst and enabler of inclusive growth in Ballymena and the wider borough. The BRCD regeneration pillar investment aims to help create a step change for these regeneration plans by enabling i4C to serve as the anchor tenant building and key economic driver for future growth and will also allow local communities to avail of skills and employability opportunities. This regeneration will add greater social value through place-making,
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.