Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Visionary plan offers hope for the future

Editor's Viewpoint

People will be encouraged by the ambitious plan put together by Belfast and five other local councils and partners, which we report in today's newspaper.

The aim is to secure a one billion pound deal which, the backers believe, could deliver up to 20,000 new jobs through a 10-year investment strategy.

The prospects for growth are most impressive if everything works to plan, but as in many of these visionary initiatives, the devil is in the details.

The partners, who have joined forces with our two universities and further education institutions, are hoping that the £1bn of public funds can lever another £3bn of investment from the private sector.

The bid team are hoping that the Chancellor Philip Hammond will approve of a Treasury pledge of £450m in the next Budget on October 29.

There is also the hope that this amount of public money would be matched by Stormont, but this may depend on a return to power-sharing.

The possible deal, which has been forwarded to the Secretary of State Karen Bradley, is based on four basic areas: digital and innovation developments, infrastructure, tourism-led regeneration, and skills and employability.

So far, so good, and people will await the outcome of the bid with hope.

Certainly there is no doubt that this kind of big vision and thinking are necessary at a time when people desperately need a lift.

The disastrous fire at the Bank Buildings, and the job losses, are symbolic of the huge challenge which the city of Belfast and its people face.

A new deal for Belfast and the surrounding areas would provide new investment which in turn would mean new jobs, as well as a further boost to tourism, and an opportunity to showcase some of the best scenery and hospitality of our province, which has much to offer, but is often overlooked.

One of the strengths of the new bid is that it is backed by such a wide range of partners who are showing an initiative which the Stormont politicians from all parties sorely lack.

Over many years Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland have shown tremendous resilience and resourcefulness against a backdrop of appalling violence and political deadlock, which would have deterred people in many other parts of the world.

The Bank Buildings disaster was a wake-up call, but this new plan, admittedly conceived some time before the fire, provides an opportunity for everyone to work together for a better future for all.

Belfast Telegraph

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