Belfast Telegraph

£130m for Derry regeneration bid

Vital funding has been allocated to kick-start work on urban projects

By Brendan McDaid

The company tasked with regenerating Londonderry said that £130m has become available to kick-start the city's regeneration.

Ilex chairman Sir Roy McNulty said the funding was “more than enough” to begin work on the ambitious plans to transform the city physically, economically and socially.

A delegation from the government-funded company told |yesterday's meeting of the Social Development Committee in Derry that the city’s progress had |been crippled in the past because there were up to 89 separate strategies running simultaneously.

By contrast, around 1,000 experts from various fields have united to work on developing the city's One Plan, launched earlier this year.

Sir Roy said the number of reports before the One Plan had been “a bit confusing to say the least” and was in fact part of the problem with progressing developments in the city.

He said the draft One Plan was distributed to 46,000 homes in Derry and 5,000 stakeholders, with youth versions sent to every primary and secondary school in the city.

As a result of feedback, 153 ideas were incorporated into the final plan.

Sir Roy said that the proposals for a North West Regional Science Park at the former Fort George army barracks and a smaller development in Letterkenny were currently with a European Union funding body.

Another project was under way to develop a masterplan for the Foyle Valley Gateway area, stretching from the Brandywell through to the Fountain estates.

Sir Roy, who will retire as chairman in early 2012, said there were also plans to set up a new regeneration delivery fund.

He said: “Every department we talk to, they all tell us there is no money. We all understand that perfectly well. We don’t have all the funding but we have something like £130m committed budgets available to us and that is more than enough to start with.

“The main message we want to put forward is we think both Derry and Northern Ireland need to be more creative and imaginative.”

”There are many things being done across the water in England that are not being done here because we are so cautious and careful.”

He added: “We all need to raise our game. Derry has got to sell itself a lot better.

“We have got to sell ourselves in the tourism sense, from an investment point of view and as a place for students to come to.”

Sir Roy said Ilex wanted to see the One Plan embedded in the Northern Ireland Programme for Government, as well as the economic and regional development strategies for Northern Ireland.

Tom McCartney, interim director of development at Ilex, said that following several years, the Ministry of Defence had finally agreed to pay the £5 to £6 million cost for the decontamination of the 14-acre Fort George site, with work due to start in the New Year.

Mr McCartney said: “It will take nine months and will start to look very busy.

“We are currently waiting on approval for the North West Regional Science Park and it is critical that starts as a catalyst for the city itself.

“We are waiting on news of that, which we expect in February next year.

“We will be putting a development framework forward in March and will have planning certainly by July.

“This is a very demanding time scale and it is very important as it links to the science park and getting that built.”

He added that there was already expressions of interest for local businesses to expand operations onto the site, while the science park itself is expected to create 240 to 260 jobs in the city and a further 50 to 60 at Letterkenny.

Speaking about Ilex’s other main charge, the Ebrington site linked to the city centre by the Peace Bridge, Mr McCartney said: “The parade ground or Ebrington Square as it is becoming known, will look finished by Christmas and will be completed by late January.

“The neighbouring platform and car park is also being developed while the Clock Tower building will be turned into the cultural centre.

“The Maritime Museum is moving from its site over the river to Ebrington, and all that starts to embed cultural activity.

“In terms of marketing opportunities for Fort George and Ebrington, because things are happening, we are at that moment that we can start to comfortably talk to the private sector in a serious way about investing in the city. That will be done during 2012. “

Ilex cultural broker Caoimhin Corrigan said that 116 expressions of interest for local cultural projects related to Derry’s year as UK City of Culture have now been received.

The projects are vying for a share of the £4million funding awarded by Department for Social Development for the projects, part of a £10 million package gifted to Derry last year.

Of these bids, 46 have progressed to the second phase, and 33 will be informed in the coming weeks of their success, with a further eight being held in reserve.

“They range across tourism, heritage, sports, arts and local community facilities,” Mr Corrigan said.

Background

The Ilex Urban Regeneration Company Limited (Ilex) was set up in 2003 by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) and the Department for Social Development in Northern Ireland (DSD) to plan, develop and sustain the economic, physical and social regeneration of the Derry City Council area.

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