Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

We can learn from London’s Chatham Docks on how heritage helps the economy - Durkan

Stormont Executive press release - Department of the Environment

Chief Executive of London’s Chatham Docks, Bill Ferris will tomorrow highlight how Northern Ireland can use its heritage assets to boost the economy. 

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan will host The Heritage Opportunity Conference. This will move forward plans to realise the economic and social potential of our heritage assets. It will feature an address by the Chief Executive of London’s Chatham Docks. The Docks have many protected heritage assets and are an example of a highly successful business and tourism destination.

A Study of the Economic Value of Northern Ireland’s Historic Environment Report, published last year, highlighted that the historic environment has the potential to be an economic cash cow by creating 2,500 additional jobs and increasing economic output by £150 million annually.

Mark H Durkan said: “Coming from the City of Derry I realise that we are surrounded by a fascinating heritage in every part of Northern Ireland. I want our heritage assets to give us a sense of who we are and to provide a sense of place. 

“But in addition to the beauty and culture our heritage gives us, there is a great opportunity to increase the number of jobs and to grow our economy. The two main sectors to gain from this growth will be construction and tourism. Construction will gain with projects that refurbish historic buildings and build new associated facilities while tourism will grow with improved visitor experiences. 

“By developing heritage sites such as Dunluce Castle and Carrickfergus Castle we can involve the private sector in their management to ensure maximum use is made of their economic potential. These Northern Ireland Environment Agency properties are both the subject of Department of the Environment Innovation Trials involving the private sector. 

“I am convinced that this approach must be taken in partnerships right across society with other government departments, local authorities, the private sector, tourism organisations, universities and communities. It is together that we can really make this work. This conference is an important step in that.” 

Bill Ferris, Chief Executive of Chatham Docks in London said: “I manage an historic dockyard with many protected heritage assets. This is now a thriving community and visitor destination with 112 residential homes, 142 business tenants and 160,000 paying visitors annually. I am sure that there are many sites in Northern Ireland that can be used in a similar creative way.

“The Titanic Quarter is a similar large-scale waterfront regeneration project that already has invested £97million and that welcomed 800,000 visitors in its first year. Ebrington Barracks in Derry has been transformed into a cultural plaza that is playing a major role in the UK City of Culture 2013 while Belfast's Cathedral Quarter is part of the city's lively nightlife scene.”

The conference, The Heritage Opportunity: Creating Prosperity Through Partnership is jointly organised by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Notes to editors:

1. The Heritage Opportunity: Creating Prosperity Through Partnership will be held in the Skainos Centre Newtownards Road Belfast on Monday 28 November commencing at 9.30am.

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