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NI City Deal projects move another step closer

Three major regeneration projects for Mid and East Antrim, being developed as part of the Belfast Region City Deal (BRCD) programme, have moved another step forward in the application process.

These projects, with a combined value of over £77m, are seeking up to £62m of capital funding from the BRCD, with the remainder to be funded by Council. Outline Business Cases (OBCs) are being finalised and will be submitted by November, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s City Deal Elected Members Working Group heard when they met recently.

The OBCs set out a range of important considerations alongside the wealth of anticipated benefits for each of the three projects proposed to receive funding through the City Deal:

  • A £39.4 million investment to regenerate, reposition and rebrand the town of Carrickfergus – placing the town firmly on the map as an authentic tourism hub, part of the wider Belfast Story and the ‘must visit’ starting point to the internationally recognised Causeway Coastal Route;

  • A £13.7 million project to install a stunning ingress structure linking the cliff top path with the coastal path to develop a looped walk at The Gobbins. Furthermore, the cliff top path will include a range of exciting features and viewing points to provide a much enhanced visitor experience. These additions will provide a world-class visitor offering at The Gobbins. It is anticipated that this will lead to increased overnight stays and out of state visitors, and leverage additional investment into the overall visitor experience in Mid and East Antrim;

  • A £24.2m investment for the construction of the i4c Innovation Centre at the Saint Patrick’s Barracks regeneration site in Ballymena. The i4C building will comprise a mix of incubation labs and workshops for SMEs, premium innovation office accommodation including co-working space for rent, and the iLAB industry makerspace - a focal point for SME R&D and innovation activity in the Borough. It will provide support for key industrial sectors in the Borough including advanced manufacturing, agri-foods and the emerging hydrogen clean energy sector opportunity.

Speaking following the meeting, Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Cllr Peter Johnston, said: “This is an important step forward in our plans to secure up to £62 million of funding for Mid and East Antrim as part of the Belfast Region City Deal.

“Despite challenges posed by Covid-19 we continued to make steady progress on our OBCs throughout the lockdown period – which is testament to the hard work and dedication of our City Deal Team, including Elected Members and Officers.

“I congratulate all those who have been working tirelessly to shape the final details for the three significant projects for Carrickfergus, The Gobbins and the ‘next generation’ i4C Ballymena.

“By seizing the huge potential of the Borough’s tourism, heritage and entrepreneurial sectors, we can ensure we are delivering employment, security and sustainability for our businesses and citizens for generations to come.”

The Belfast Region City Deal sets out a vision to create 20,000 new and better-paid jobs across the region’s growth sectors; pushing the ‘fast-forward’ button on inclusive economic growth and ensuring opportunities are accessible across all of our communities.

It will also improve infrastructure, digital connectivity, visitor attractions and innovation hubs; and deliver a major skills and employability programme.

Earlier this year, the First and Deputy First Ministers announced £562 million match funding for City and Growth Deals across various locations in Northern Ireland.

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