Agenda and minutes

Venue: Lavery Room - City Hall

Contact: Carolyn Donnelly, Democratic Services Officer 

No. Item




            Apologies for inability to attend were reported for Alderman Kingston and Councillor Long.





            The minutes of the meeting of the Committee of 9th March were taken as read and signed as correct.  It was reported that those minutes had been adopted by the Council at its meeting on 4th April.




Declarations of Interest



            Councillors Beattie and O’Hara declared an interest in relation to item 3(d), under the heading ‘DfI Blue Green Infrastructure Fund – Active Travel Projects’ in that, they were on the Board of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners and left the meeting while the motion was under consideration.



Request to present to the Committee


Translink - Weavers Cross pdf icon PDF 271 KB


            The Committee agreed to receive a presentation from Translink on the Weavers Cross Regeneration Scheme at its Special Meeting, scheduled to take place on Wednesday, 27th April, 2022.



Regenerating Places & Improving Infrastructure


Future City Centre Programme - Vacant to Vibrant Expression of Interest Update pdf icon PDF 467 KB

Additional documents:


            The Director of City Regeneration and Development provided the Committee with an update on the programme of work which had been developed in response to the rise in the number of vacant properties across the city centre.


            She reported that, given the range of global and local factors, a toolkit approach had been undertaken, which comprised a number of forms of intervention, that included a mix of grant support and Council-led or delivered projects.


            She outlined the work which had been undertaken to develop the following strands:


·        Data;

·        Retail and Leisure Performance Strategy;

·        Matchmaking Service;

·        Targeted Acquisition; and

·        Capital Grant Pilot Programme – ‘Vacant to Vibrant’.


            She explained that the Capital Grant Pilot Programme, ‘Vacant to Vibrant’, had been focussed within the city centre, to maximise its impact, with limited funding, and that, it had been proposed that property owners, businesses and organisations interested in renovating or repurposing a vacant space could apply for a grant and would be expected to contribute a minimum of ten percent match funding while also demonstrating quality assurance and clear commercial viability, which would be evidenced through a robust three-year business and financial plan.


            She informed the Committee that the expression of interest process, which had been undertaken to gauge interest and to help shape the grant scheme and the level of support services which would be required, was still in the review stage and that an initial analysis of the responses received had indicated that the level of interest for the grant was likely to exceed the available funding of £700,000 over the identified two year period.


            She summarised the findings from the Expression of Interest and reported that the process had also gathered information with regard to the demand for various forms of support for businesses seeking to occupy a vacant space and work had been ongoing to fully consider the range of support required.


            She pointed out that the process had identified that access to capital was the most common challenge to occupying vacant space in the city centre, followed closely by rent and rates  She asked the Committee to note that the ‘Back in Business’ scheme, which had recently been launched by the Minister for Finance, offering a 50% rates discount for up to two years for the occupation of a vacant shop unit, only applied to premises which were or had previously been used for retail purposes. 



            The Committee:


·        Noted the update in relation to the overall Vacancy Programme, including data; the ‘matchmaking’ service to assist potential occupiers; a revised Retail & Leisure Performance Strategy; targeted acquisition and the ‘Vacant to Vibrant’ grant scheme;

·        Noted the outcomes of the Expression of Interest regarding the proposed ‘Vacant to Vibrant’ pilot capital grant scheme, which included the potential demand for both capital funding and wrap around business support services;

·        Noted that officers would continue to establish demand for the grant programme and the requirements for wrap around support services (for example, business plan preparation) and that a further report would be brought  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Future City Centre Programme - Tactical Regeneration Programme and 'Grey to Green' Initiative pdf icon PDF 459 KB

Additional documents:


            The Committee considered the undernoted report:


 “1.0     Purpose of Report or Summary of main Issues


            The purpose of the report is to update Members in relation to a proposed Tactical Regeneration Programme; the Entries Phase 2 scheme; a 5Cs Revitalisation scheme and a ‘Grey to Green’ initiative for the city centre and linking to surrounding communities.


2.0       Recommendations


            Members are requested to:


                                         (i)          Note the initial work to develop a 'Tactical Regeneration Programme' aligned to A Bolder Vision, and approve its further development to progress feasibility of potential future projects, including an initial focus on the Great Victoria Street area;

                                       (ii)          Note the DfC offer of capital funding to deliver the '5Cs Revitalisation' project, and approve Council support for the project by way of progressing design and delivery; note also the opportunity this presents for Castle Street with a potential further phase of work during 2022/23;

                                      (iii)          Note that Council have received and accepted via the Capital Letters of Offer process a LoO from DfC in respect of the Entries Phase 2 project and that work is progressing in line with this to deliver the scope of works included within the Entries Phase 2 scheme;

                                      (iv)          Note the opportunity to deliver on a 'Grey to Green’ initiative for the city centre and linking to surrounding communities and approve the approach to developing potential future projects and funding applications.


3.0       Main report




            The Future City Centre (FCC) Programme has been developed in line with the Belfast Agenda, the Inclusive Growth Strategy and the Cultural Strategy and has been informed by the Belfast City Centre Regeneration and Investment Strategy. The FCC Programme sets out a framework to deliver on priorities including diversification of uses, enhanced connectivity, investment, and inclusive economic and cultural growth although it is recognised that it needs to remain agile to deal with the ever-changing challenges of the city centre. The FCC programme has six cross-cutting pillars and includes ‘tactical regeneration’ as a key area of work that has potential to make a significant contribution, alongside other interventions, in helping to achieve the overall objective of a reimagined city centre.


            Tactical Regeneration represents an opportunity to deliver against the principles and objectives of A Bolder Vision, by delivering shorter term improvements that enhance and better connect spaces and places throughout the city centre, while also testing temporary interventions that can shape and inform delivery of permanent public realm, regeneration or infrastructure projects.



            Tactical Regeneration


            ‘Tactical Regeneration’ is about being pro-active to deliver simple and creative interventions that are relatively quick and low cost. It is a form of temporary place-making that help address issues of vacancy and dereliction and to test potential interventions that can inform long term change and act as a catalyst for future permanent regeneration projects. It represents an opportunity to deliver against the principles and objectives of A Bolder Vision, by delivering shorter term improvements that enhance and better connect spaces and places, while also testing temporary interventions that can shape and inform delivery  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.


DfI Inconsiderate Pavement Parking - Options Paper: Draft Response pdf icon PDF 269 KB

Additional documents:


The Committee considered the undernoted report:


“1.0      Purpose of Report or Summary of main Issues


            The purpose of this report is to update Members on the draft submission to the DFI Inconsiderate Pavement Parking consultation that closed on 18th March 2022.  A draft response was submitted on behalf of Belfast City Council on the basis that it remains subject to agreement by this committee, and subsequent Council ratification in May.


2.0       Recommendations


            The Committee is asked to:


            Approve the Council’s draft response submission to the DFI Inconsiderate Pavement Parking consultation enclosed with this report at Appendix 2. Members are asked to note that a draft response was submitted by the closing date of 18 March 2022 on the basis that it remains subject to the approval of this Committee and subsequent Council ratification in May.


3.0       Main report




            The Department for Infrastructure is seeking a resolution to the difficulties caused by inconsiderate parking on the pavement.  Initial exploratory work undertaken by the Department is presented in the document Inconsiderate Pavement Parking – An options paper (Appendix 1).  The paper provides background on the issue, looks at the position elsewhere in the UK and Ireland and sets out some associated considerations before setting out what the Department considers would be the most practical options for dealing with the issue.




            There is currently no legislation in place to stop vehicles from inconsiderate or obstructive pavement parking and it is clear that this presents dangers to pedestrians, especially people with disabilities and parents or carers with prams and young children. While drivers often think they are doing the right thing by keeping the road clear for other motorists they fail to recognise that this blocks the pavement for those who walk, wheel or cycle. It can also force these people onto the road placing them at a high risk of harm.


            The options being considered by the Department and which the consultation sought views on, are the following:


            Option 1: introduce individual bans using the Department’s existing powers.


            Option 2: introduce an outright ban on pavement parking possibly with some exceptions.


            Option 3: introduce powers that would allow the Department’s Traffic Attendants to enforce against vehicles found to be parked on the pavement and causing an obstruction.


            The Department also sought views on how to deal with vehicles parked across dropped kerbs which have been lowered specifically to help people cross the road.


            Belfast City Council Draft Consultation Response


            Members are asked to approve the Council’s draft consultation response submission to the DFI Inconsiderate Pavement Parking – Options Paper, as included within Appendix 2 of this report. Given the tight timeframes for the submission to the consultation this response was submitted in line with the timeframes outlined within the Consultation, however, included a caveat that the response remains subject to agreement by the City Growth and Regeneration Committee, and subsequent Council ratification in May. Officers will advise the consultation team of any further comments or amendment requests following this Committee meeting  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.


DfI Blue Green Infrastructure Fund - Active Travel Projects pdf icon PDF 192 KB

Additional documents:


            The Director of City Regeneration and Development provided the Committee with an update on the Department for Infrastructure’s Blue Green Infrastructure Funding related to Active Travel Projects. 


            She informed the Members that the Letter of Offer in respect of the project proposal for Active Travel Enablers had been signed and returned to the Department with progress having been made against delivery, in terms of scoping and procurement.


            She reported that a series of discussions between Council officers and the Department for Infrastructure had taken place regarding the funding proposal around the development of designs for the Greater Clarendon North South Spine.  She added that, following submission of the business case to the Department for Infrastructure, the funding had not been awarded but that there had been an indication from the Department that an offer of around 50% funding could possibly be made and that, with further development of the proposal, with a cost plan and initial designs, there could be a possibility of further funding in future years to support delivery and construction.


            She pointed out that the proposal aligned with the principles of A Bolder Vision and would help connect the communities in Sailortown with the city centre and might include enhanced pedestrian crossings, dedicated cycle lanes, soft landscaping, lighting, resurfacing, open space and street furniture.


            The Director stated that discussions which had taken place with Belfast Harbour Commissioners had resulted in a proposal that the feasibility work for the North South Spine Scheme could be co-funded and co-delivered by the Council and the Harbour Commissioners up to RIBA Stage 3 and would be brought forward under the existing Memorandum of Understanding, with a view to preparing the scheme to a position that could attract project delivery partner funding in future years.


The Committee:


·        Noted that the Letter of Offer from the Department for Infrastructure, for capital funding to deliver Active Travel Enabling projects, had been signed and that officers were working to deliver the secure cycle units, covered cycle units and cycle repair stands under the Letter of Offer; and

·        Agreed to progress the proposal to develop the designs for the Greater Clarendon North South Spine connectivity project, in conjunction with Belfast Harbour Commissioners, with a view to attracting further capital funding for delivery.



Growing Business and the Economy


Make Yourself at Home - Planning for the future of Tourism pdf icon PDF 600 KB

Additional documents:


The Committee considered the undernoted report:


“1.0      Purpose of Report or Summary of main Issues


            At a meeting of City Growth and Regeneration Committee in September 2021, it was agreed that the draft tourism plan for Belfast, Make Yourself at Home would complete a 12-week public consultation. The purpose of this report is to provide Members with an overview of feedback and present the final plan for approval.


2.0       Recommendations


            Members are asked to:


-        Note the contents of this report and feedback received as part of the public consultation.

-        Agree the final plan, Make Yourself at Home including the priorities as set out at appendix 2 for year one and associated budgets.


3.0       Main report


            Members will be aware that at a meeting of City Growth and Regeneration Committee in September 2021 it was agreed that the draft tourism plan, Make Yourself at Home would complete a 12-week public consultation. The purpose of this plan is to:


-        Deliver on the tourism priorities set out in the Belfast Agenda recognising the importance of tourism to Growing the economy and City Development.

-        Align to the ten-year cultural strategy, A City Imagining, in order to ensure that tourism development supports cultural development and is based upon an authentic and sustainable Belfast offer.

-        Support economic and social recovery in the context of COVID-19 including stabilisation, recovery and growth with the opportunity to build back better.

-        Provide strategic context to the Belfast Region City Deal that sets out wider city priorities to ensure Belfast’s appeal internationally and ability to attract out of state visitors.


            Tourism Growth Pre Covid-19


            Despite significant growth and the success of flagship projects such as Titanic Belfast there is still a gap in scale and maturity of the local industry when compared with other regions. Notably, Northern Ireland lags behind UK regions and Republic of Ireland with respect to tourism as a driver for job growth. However, the positive trajectory in place before Covid-19 had identified tourism growth as both feasible and a necessary part of inclusive economic growth. The challenge of any tourism development plan will be to create a sustainable model that continues to support the growth that is essential for city success and the creation of jobs.


            Belfast’s tourism and hospitality sectors directly support 19,300 jobs, one third of the sector in Northern Ireland. Key tourism sectors such as Accommodation & Food Services, Arts, Entertainment & Recreation and Transportation have been impacted by COVID-19 however if Belfast’s recovery from the pandemic is managed then the growth potential remains high. The hospitality sector is an employment-intensive one, supporting a disproportionate number of jobs compared with the average sectoral GVA: jobs ratio. Between 2013 and 2019 employment in Accommodation and Food Services in Belfast increased by 18.2 percent, compared with 8.5 percent growth in the city’s total employment.


            It was in this context that Tourism NI set the ambitious target of doubling the value of the tourism industry to £2 billion by 2030. A key  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.


Employability and Skills - Update and Workplan pdf icon PDF 305 KB


            The Director of Economic Development reported that, following the series of lockdowns and restrictions in 2020 and 2021, there had been significant volatility within the labour market.  He pointed out that the Council’s employment academies had been designed in conjunction with employers to address the existing job vacancies and, since April, 2021, 816 people had been brought through the Employment Academies with and into-work rate of 75% for those who successfully completed the scheme.


            He informed the Committee that, for 2022/23, it had been expected that the Employment Academies would engage around 540 participants with at least 70% expected to gain employment in sectors such as construction, manufacturing, care and customer service.


            He pointed out that a number of initiatives were in place for young people, both in the formal education setting and outside of the school environment, focussed on improving educational attainment and helping young people at risk to find positive employment and training outcomes.  He then summarised the following initiatives:


·        GCSE Support Programme;

·        Youth Support Programme; and

·        A new initiative that was being developed based on the Boston Summer Scheme model.


            He outlined the priority areas of focus for the Labour Market Partnership and reported that the resources from the partnership enabled the Council to significantly increase the volume of activity and subsequent job outcomes.  The Partnership also created a platform for engagement with government departments. 


            He stated that the Department for the Economy had allocated 90% of the requested match funding for European Social Fund projects, with the intention of releasing the remaining 10% within the 2022/23 financial year.


            In response to a question from a Member regarding issues with applications for taxi licenses, the Director stated that he would bring a report back to a future meeting of the Committee.


            The Committee:


·        Noted the work that had been undertaken in the financial year to date, and the positive employability and jobs outcomes associated with the work; and

·        Approved the priority interventions for the 2022/2023 financial year.



Supporting Business Start Up and Growth in Belfast pdf icon PDF 450 KB

Additional documents:


            The Director of Economic Development provided the Committee with an update on activity which had taken place to support the development of new and existing businesses across the city through the Enterprise and Business Growth Team. 


            He pointed out that the activities which had taken place in 2021/22 had been developed in partnership with a range of organisations which included Invest NI, Catalyse and Local Enterprise Agencies and highlighted the following areas of activity:


·        Enterprise awareness activity: engaged 760 individuals through a range of activities.  Some specialist support work undertaken with female entrepreneurs and student start-ups;

·        Start a business activity: 279 new jobs created through the Go for It support, with 75 businesses receiving additional follow-on mentoring and financial support;

·        Support for Social Enterprise and Co-operatives: 56 organisations had been supported with one-to-one mentoring, advice and guidance, including six new co-operatives;

·        Business growth supports: 327 businesses had engaged in a range of business support workshops and 357 had been supported through one-to-one engagement to help them to implement growth strategies and become more resilient;

·        Innovation Factory: was at 70% occupancy, the operator had ambitious plans to increase those numbers in 2022/23.  The centre had seen a high level of interest from new firms in sectors including TV/film, digital, engineering and green tech. Over the previous year, 84 businesses had engaged in masterclasses at the centre and, as part of their social and economic regeneration activity, over 30 work placements had been facilitated by IF customers over recent months, a series of school engagement activities had taken place and 10 local people had been trained as Digital Champions;

·        Scaling and growth: in partnership with Catalyst and Invest NI, the Way to Scale programme supported 60 individuals toparticipate on a series of bootcamps to transform their businesses and support them to scale and grow to turnover of more than £3million. 10 were supported to participate in a one week residential at MIT and access a peer-to-peer workshop series with Catalyst and a Go to Market residential in Boston which focused on go to market strategies and tactics;

·        City Vibrancy: In January 2002, the Vibrant Business Destinations programme had been launched, in partnership with DfC.  To date, there had been 17 enquiries in relation to the programme and officers had been engaging with businesses to support them with the expression of interest process; and

·        Investment had been undertaken in technology solutions to enable tracking of the impact of investment and carry out regular evaluations of programmes in order to measure their effectiveness.  A bi-annual Belfast Business Survey had been relaunched, in conjunction with Belfast Chamber and responses from over 400 businesses were being analysed, the insights of which, would be shared with partners to build a collective understanding of the needs of businesses in the city and agree on priority interventions to address those needs. 


            He reported that work had been underway to develop an Economic Strategy to support sustainable and inclusive growth in Belfast from 2022 to 2030 and that it  ...  view the full minutes text for item 12.


PWC Good Growth for Cities 2022 Report: Taking Action on Levelling Up pdf icon PDF 265 KB

Additional documents:


The Committee considered the undernoted report:


“1.0      Purpose of Report or Summary of main Issues


            The purpose of this report is to:


            Update Members on PwC’s Good Growth for Cities 2022 report: Taking Action on Levelling Up


2.0       Recommendations


            The Committee is asked to:


            Note the update on - PwC’s Good Growth for Cities 2022: Taking Action on Levelling Up report which measures the performance of cities and regions across the UK as indicators of ‘Good Growth’ and ranked Belfast as the highest-ranking city from the devolved nation.


3.0       Main report




            The Demos-PwC Good Growth for Cities Index is an annual report which looks at broad measures of economic performance alongside well-being indicators to develop a metric for ‘Good Growth’ of cities. Specifically, the report ranks 50 of the UK’s largest cities based on people’s assessment of 12 key economic wellbeing factors, including jobs, health, income and skills, as well as work-life balance, house affordability, travel-to-work times, income equality, environment and business start-ups. This year’s report also includes two new indicators covering safety and vibrancy of local high streets. Indicators within the report align to the Council’s strategic objectives and of this Committee, as set out within the CG&R Committee Plan, the Belfast Agenda, Corporate Plan, BRCD.  Belfast City Centre and Regeneration Strategy (BCCRIS), Bolder Vision for Belfast and the Reset for Growth report, as well as a number of other strategies and programmes.


            Using these ‘Good Growth’ indicators, the report ranked Belfast in eighth place, and highest ranked city from the devolved nations. Other cities in the top 10 include London, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leicester, Sheffield and Bristol. Members will be aware of the projects and programmes Council are delivering aimed at job creation, regeneration and place making, vibrancy and making Belfast a city a great place to live, work, visit and invest. The recent findings from this report are a positive sense check in terms of our direction and focused priorities, and also highlighting the need to ensure that we continue to work to position the city to compete both nationally and globally.


            Contained within the report are case studies of best practice at how investment in townscapes, support in community cohesion, efforts to foster local pride and attract new types of businesses are being used to boost growth. Belfast was selected as a case study for inclusion within the report, referencing a balanced and deliberately interventionist approach to regeneration.  Work being undertaken by the city to invest in place-making, open and green spaces, community infrastructure, connectivity and cultural and tourism offerings in order to create a more attractive, accessible, and vibrant city centre which connects to surrounding communities are highlighted as best practice. It also referred to city investment plans including a citywide commitment to investing in neighbourhoods, leisure and community facilities and to strategies that integrate physical regeneration with cultural, social and environmental regeneration.  It highlighted the Bolder Vision for Belfast as being key to a stronger and more resilient city core  ...  view the full minutes text for item 13.


Strategic and Operational Issues


Community Planning Update: Belfast Agenda Review, City Development and Jobs, Skills and Education Delivery Boards pdf icon PDF 647 KB

Additional documents:


The Committee considered the undernoted report:


“1.0      Purpose of Report or Summary of main Issues


            The purpose of the report is to provide Members with an update on the progress of the Belfast Agenda Review, including the action planning phase, with a specific focus on the work being taken forward by the City Development and Jobs, Skills and Education delivery Boards.


2.0       Recommendations


            The Committee is asked to:


                                      i.           Note that a report was presented to the March SP&R Committee outlining the progress of the development of the refreshed Belfast Agenda Strategy document and supporting four-year Delivery Action Plans.

                                     ii.          Note the progress for the City Development and Jobs, Skills and Education Boards as set out in this report.

                                   iii.          Consider and provide comments on the emerging strategic intents and measures of success (stretch goals) as set out in slides 12-22 in Appendix 1.

                                   iv.          Note the proposed next steps and timeline as set out in slide 33 in Appendix 1.

                                     v.          Note the plans for continued elected member engagement, detailed in section 3.5.


3.0       Main report




            Members will be aware of the Belfast Agenda: Continuing the Conversation engagement that commenced in June 2021 to inform the refreshed Belfast Agenda for the period 2022-26. During this engagement there was broad agreement that the existing long-term vision and outcomes of the Belfast Agenda remain relevant, and the proposed priorities of focus were the things that stakeholders and communities believed community planning could help address over the next 4-year period. As a result of feedback received some minor changes have been made to the framing of priority areas such as changing ‘Economic Recovery’ to ‘Sustainable & Inclusive Economic Growth’ and the creation of a specific priority for City Development. A summary of the current Belfast Agenda priority framework is attached at Appendix 1


Bringing focus and commitment to delivery

            Members will recall that in order to ensure that the vision and ambitions set out within the Belfast Agenda translates into delivery, four cross-sectoral Boards have been formed (City Development | Jobs, Skills and Education | Living Here | Resilience and Sustainability) under the auspices of the Community Planning Partnership.


            Building on the recommendations and consensus reached through Phase 1, the Community Planning Partnership, Delivery Boards and Council have committed to co-design specific and measurable action plans which underpin the priority areas of focus. This has been the focus of each of the respective delivery boards, who have designated small groups of core partners to develop the co-design approach for each priority area. This has involved analysing the range of outputs from the phase 1 engagement process; assessing relevant strategies, plans and local intelligence; feedback from community focus groups & surveys; feedback from Delivery Board workshops and legacy actions contained within previous action plans.


            Based on this initial analysis, partners prepared a strategic framework to help bring focus to the emerging co-designed action plans consisting of:


1.         What are we trying to achieve over the next 4 years (strategic intent)

2.         How will  ...  view the full minutes text for item 15.


Positioning Belfast to Compete


External Market Application - Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival Bazaar pdf icon PDF 247 KB


            The Director of Economic Development informed the Committee that an application had been received on behalf of Firefox Events to hold a market of up to 40 traders, on the premises of the Common Market on 2nd May, 2022, as part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival.


            He pointed out that officers had been satisfied that the market would be well placed in the Common Market space and that it would be compliant with all relevant regulations and statutory requirements.  He added that all of the traders would be local to Northern Ireland and were producing local and artisan products and that the local traders had indicated that they were fully supportive of the market event taking place.


            The Committee agreed to grant a market licence to the Firefox Events to hold the one-off market as part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival on Monday 2nd May 2022 from 1-5pm.