Belfast Telegraph

Belfast City Council to spend £500K on developing City Deal projects

By Andrew Madden, Local Democracy Reporter

Belfast City Council will spend £500,000 on developing projects to be included in Theresa May’s promised City Deal for the region.

Several projects are currently being explored and fully costed for possible inclusion in the proposed deal, including a multimedia tourist centre telling the story of Belfast.

Other potential projects being considered include a “Digital Innovation Centre”, an “Academic Medical Research Institute” and a “5G Smart District”, according to council documents.

Plans are still at an early stage in terms of details, however a council spokesperson said £500k was agreed at committee in November last year to developed these projects.

“A one-off allocation of £500K was agreed by our SP&R Committee in November 2017 to support the development of the Belfast Region City Deal. This money will be primarily spent on the development of projects to be included in the deal,” they said.

“A City Deal for the Belfast region would result in a 10 year investment plan to improve infrastructure, digital connectivity, tourism assets and innovation hubs as well as delivering a major skills programme.

“The aim of the deal is ultimately to create more and better jobs across all of our growth sectors, pushing the ‘fast-forward’ button on economic growth here and ensuring that those opportunities are accessible across all of our communities.”

A Belfast City Deal would see special powers devolved to BCC and exemptions would also be made to allow for the promotion of business, providing a welcome boost for the local economy.

In the wake of last year’s snap general election, Theresa May struck a confidence and supply deal between the Conservatives and the DUP, which effectively means the Democratic Unionists are keeping the Tories in power.

As part of the deal, Theresa May pledged to support a city deal for Belfast and, in the months that followed, it is understood the Belfast Story project was diverted to become one of several tourism attractions proposed for the future Belfast Region City Deal.

“Such an investment would also give added momentum to our ambitious plans to deliver a new and exciting world-class visitor attraction that integrates with existing assets and organisations and builds on our growing visitor economy,” a spokesperson said.

“[The project would] act as a cornerstone and create an experience that is authentic and distinctive to Belfast, to tell the Belfast Story through the mediums of music, art, literature, our people and our achievements.”

Work has already started on the development of an outline business case for the Belfast Story project, which is due to be completed by the end of June 2018.

According to council documents, “work is also continuing on the tourism product in other areas such as the Gobbins II and Carrickfergus Castle”.

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