Business leaders in Londonderry have welcomed the review of the Department for Regional Development’s strategy, Shaping Our Future.
The strategy was first launched in September 2001 by the then Minister Gregory Campbell and outlined the DRD’s aims and objectives up to 2025.
The first review of the strategy was released by the department last month, though a more fundamental review is being undertaken by the current Minister, Conor Murphy.
And as far as the North West is concerned, it’s a case of ‘so far, so good’.
The chief executive of Derry’s Chamber of Commerce, Janice Tracey, said the interim update showed welcome steps in the right direction.
She said: “In the context of the forthcoming review announced by Mr Murphy, this is an interim but necessary update based upon current statistical information.
“Nonetheless, there are a number of statements and proposals in the five year review which should be welcomed in the North West.
“The status of the regional development strategy is reaffirmed as ‘the overarching regional strategy for Northern Ireland up to 2025'.”
One of the aims of the strategy — one championed for years by the Chamber — is the development of a strong regional centre based in Derry, described as “the transport pivot and regional gateway for the north western corner of Ireland”.
Some of the objectives have been updated in the review and more emphasis is placed on cross-border co-operation, especially as the North West is also recognised as a gateway in the Republic’s spatial strategy.
Another welcome aspect of the review is the continued aim of developing Derry “as the key strategic employment location of the North West and central focus of the North West development corridor extending into Donegal”.
Ms Tracey said that a cross-border framework is being drawn up that will encompass activity at three spatial levels — island of Ireland, regional and local.
In the North West, the development of a non-statutory integrated framework is promised soon, focusing on the Derry-Letterkenny regional gateways and the council areas of Derry, Strabane, Limavady and Donegal.
She added: “This framework will set out where the North West sits in the context of the strategic guidance of the RDS and the National Spatial Strategy.
“It will deal with joint analysis and actions by agencies in areas such as trade, investment and promotion, tourism, skills/training, further and higher education, innovation and business development. The chamber welcomes the updated information provided in this review and will be pressing for the speediest possible progress in the Assembly’s endorsement of the non-statutory integrated framework for the two North West gateways.”