Belfast Telegraph

Culture title could bring £89m windfall

By Symon Ross

Winning the UK City of Culture bid would net Londonderry at least £89m of new investment, the city’s Chamber of Commerce has announced.

The figure is contained in Derry’s bid document and comes from pledges received from businesses in the region based on the capital investment they think will be needed to cope with the expected upsurge in demand for hotels, cultural activities, restaurants, retail and tourism.

Derry is up against Birmingham, Norwich and Sheffield to become the UK’s first City of Culture in 2013, an honour which would see landmark cultural events taking up temporary residence in the title-holding city.

Londonderry Chamber of Commerce said that at a time when government departments in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK are under pressure to cut regeneration spending, the title would provide an important stimulus to the construction sector and employment overall in the North West.

“Our members, and investors from outside the city, have already made clear that they will commit to a massive capital investment if Derry-Londonderry becomes the City of Culture,” said Sinead McLaughlin, chief executive of the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce.

“Promises of at least £89m of early stage capital spending would represent one of the biggest boosts to the city’s economy ever. The jobs and commercial activity created would represent the best possible news for a city that has been badly hit by the collapse of manufacturing sectors.”

If Derry were to fail in its bid she said the chamber would sit down with local businesses to urge them to go through with investment plans, but without the 2013 deadline to work to there may be less urgency on their part.

“What we’re looking for in the North West is for that investment to happen as soon as possible. If it didn’t go our way we would still encourage businesses to keep to their plans,” she said.

Bid teams will give a presentation to judges on June 17 with the decision expected in early July. Representatives from Derry City Council and the ILEX urban regeneration company will give the presentation and take questions from judges.

Valerie Watts, chief executive of Derry City Council, said the the City of Culture was potentially a “turning point” for the city, which has been been ravaged by unemployment during the recession.

“We believe that when Derry-Londonderry wins the title, significant levels of investment from the business community and the public sector will follow,” she said.

Belfast Telegraph