When a deal is a big deal – it’s a city deal

04 April 2019 - by Gráinne Walsh

As the first City Deal for Northern Ireland, the Belfast City Region Deal is a big deal.

On 29th October 2018, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond MP announced in his budget that the Belfast Region City Deal had been successful in their bid to be the first City Deal for Northern Ireland.  This was followed by the Secretary of State Karen Bradley MP, formally signing the Heads of Terms on 26th March 2019.  In this sign-off Bradley also confirmed that Government will also start to consider the development of a City Deal for Derry-Londonderry and the North West region.

The Belfast City Region Deal is made up of six local councils, Antrim and Newtownabbey, Ards and North Down, Belfast City Council, Lisburn and Castlereagh, Newry Mourne and Down, and Mid and East Antrim.  It is also supported by Queen’s University and Ulster University, along with the Regional Further Education colleges, including Belfast Met, Northern Regional College, South Eastern Regional College and the Southern Regional College.

So what is in the City Deal?

The Government have committed £350 million into the Belfast Region City Deal over the next 15 years.  It is anticipated a further £350 million will also be committed by the Northern Ireland Executive; £150 million investment from the Deal partners; and a further £100 million of investment from the private sector. This adds up to nearly £1 billion of investment to be delivered over the next 15 years.

It is envisaged the Deal will deliver over 20 projects, and create over 20,000 jobs, across four pillars:

  •          Innovation and Digital
  •          Infrastructure
  •          Tourism and Regeneration
  •          Employability and Skills

These projects will be delivered evenly across the six partner Councils, with projects including investment in innovation and digital capabilities; Belfast Rapid Transit (BRT) Phase 2; Game of Thrones Legacy Attraction; Gobbins Phase 2; and Bangor Waterfront Regeneration.  There are also a number of projects being developed to address digital skills, support apprenticeships and a business productivity programme.

Local government has a long history of collaboration enhanced by the Review of Public Administration (RPA) and community planning powers. The City Deal will see this level of collaboration reach new levels, with the six Councils working closely together to deliver on the agreed themes and outcomes.

The announcement of the Belfast Region City Deal shows that despite the current political impasse in Northern Ireland, decisions are still being taken.

It paves the way for closer working relationships between local government, universities, regional colleges and the private sector. 

It will see one of the largest levels of investment across the partner regions and should bode well for progress in the North West.