Belfast Telegraph

Belfast will be in prime location to attract more business: Council defends £80k spend on French Riviera conference

By Cate McCurry

Belfast City Council has defended requesting an extra £20k on a French Riviera trip that has already cost the taxpayer £60,000.

At a meeting of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee on Wednesday night, a request for an extra £20,000 for the 2019 trip to one of the world's biggest property expos, MIPIM which is held in Cannes was approved.

MIPIM is described as the prime event in the European real estate calendar for many of the world’s investors, developers and funders from both private and public sector.

Sinn Fein described the spend on the conference as "excessive and unnecessary".

Last month, over 80 people from Northern Ireland - made up of representatives from the private and public sectors - attended the event in Cannes.

The total budget for this year was £329,825, of which 80% came from the private sector while the council covers the rest.

In a statement the council said the additional cash to attend next year would put it in a better location to promote Belfast as a place for business.

"The additional £20,000 funding sought for MIPIM 2019 is to take a larger and more strategic site," said a spokeswoman.

"This will enable us to attract higher footfall, allowing us to host greater networking opportunities and other events to ensure Belfast participants are able to better highlight the city’s attractiveness for investors and property developers – creating an even greater return on investment.

"As a council, we are absolutely committed to getting the most out of MIPIM and have worked with the private sector to do this since our first appearance in 2016.

"Attending MIPIM allows us to showcase Belfast alongside other UK cities on an international stage and  promote investment and regeneration opportunities to the international investment and development communities."

The spokeswoman said that following previous year's attendance, representatives from "major institutional investment funds" have visited the city.

Other areas of interest have included housing and office schemes as well as regeneration projects from companies and developers.

The spokeswoman continued: "We have successfully attracted major investment- we have had a commitment by Signature Living to create up to five hotels across the city, these include the £15million George Best hotel in the Scottish Mural Building, due to open later this year and the £25m Lanyon hotel in the listed Crumlin Road Courthouse.

"At the 2018 event, Signature Living also expressed interest in redeveloping the Floral Hall while a number of other investment opportunities, the Sixth development and submissions for Giant’s Park development – have also been highlighted by council."

She said the 23 cranes currently dominating the Belfast's skyline was "partly due to the success" of the council's role in marketing the city for investment.

"This is proactive marketing is essential given the current opportunities and challenges facing the city today and in the future," she added.

The council said that a core part of delivering the Belfast Agenda was to create jobs and investment as well as attracting over £1bn in private sector investment.

"The event gives us an ideal opportunity to fulfil our Belfast Agenda goals – giving us a significantly visible presence to sell Belfast."

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