London support sought for 20,000 jobs blueprint

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council hosted an engagement event in  Westminster as part of the Belfast Region City Deal. Anne Donaghy, chief executive, the Mayor, Clllr Lindsay Millar and Cllr Gregg McKeen are pictured centre foreground. ''Pic: John M Fulton.
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council hosted an engagement event in Westminster as part of the Belfast Region City Deal. Anne Donaghy, chief executive, the Mayor, Clllr Lindsay Millar and Cllr Gregg McKeen are pictured centre foreground. ''Pic: John M Fulton.

A delegation from an area rocked by the loss of more than 2,500 highly paid manufacturing jobs in recent years is currently in Westminster with a blueprint to revitalise its economy.

Business leaders, politicians and council officials from Mid and East Antrim are telling the UK Government of their ambitious plans to deliver economic growth through the proposed £1bn Belfast Region City Deal.

The substantial economic opportunity includes plans for around £80m of investment in Mid and East Antrim, which has suffered significant job losses with the closures of Michelin and JTI Gallaher in Ballymena.

This includes proposals to extend The Gobbins cliff path, Islandmagee, the regeneration of Carrickfergus and the creation of an innovation and inspiration centre at the St Patrick’s site in Ballymena.

Anne Donaghy, council chief executive, said: “As a council, we are fully committed to supporting business growth and development, and promoting an environment that encourages and facilitates investment in our borough.

“We focus our efforts on being an enabler to the wealth creators. The opportunities presented by City Deal would provide much-needed substantial investment in a borough still reeling from the loss of so many highly paid manufacturing jobs as a result of the closures of Michelin and JTI.

“To do that we have evolved, adopting a private-sector approach to improve our own efficiency and ensure we are embedded in the local business community to understand exactly what they need.

“Together with the backing of our elected representatives – who have demonstrated unwavering support to our focus on economic growth – we have introduced and delivered a number of initiatives which have the potential to transform the economy in this borough.

“The Belfast Region City Deal is vital to our ambitious vision and blueprint for a vibrant economy in Mid and East Antrim, and Northern Ireland.”

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.

The Mid and East Antrim delegation showcased its plans to reaffirm the area’s position as the engine room of the Northern Ireland economy through a once-in-a-generation cash injection in projects across the borough aimed at growing the economy, boosting jobs, increasing skills, encouraging investment and developing infrastructure.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council hosted an engagement event at Westminster on Wednesday morning.

This was followed by the Belfast Region City Deal Communications and Engagement Event in the Terrace Pavilion, hosted by the Belfast Region City Deal.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, alongside the other local authority partners, have been working in close collaboration with the Northern Ireland Civil Service, Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Treasury as well as our Universities and Further Education Colleges to agree the priority projects for submission to Westminster.

The partner councils include Antrim and Newtownabbey, Ards and North Down, Belfast, Lisburn and Castlereagh, Newry, Mourne and Down.