Contact: Eilish McGoldrick, Democratic Services Officer x6311
An apology for inability to attend was reported on behalf of Councillor Beattie.
The minutes of the meeting of 7th October were taken as read and signed as correct. It was reported that those minutes had been adopted by the Council at its meeting on 2nd November.
Declarations of Interest
No Declarations of Interest were received.
The Committee approved the following schedule of meetings for the City Growth and Regeneration Committee during 2021 (All meetings to commence at 5.15 p.m.):
· Wednesday, 13th January;
· Wednesday, 10th February;
· Wednesday, 3rd March;
· Wednesday, 14th April;
· Wednesday, 12th May;
· Wednesday, 9th June;
· No meeting in July;
· Wednesday, 11th August;
· Wednesday, 8th September;
· Wednesday, 13th October;
· Wednesday, 10th November; and
· Wednesday, 8th December.
The Committee noted that the following Special Committee dates had also been scheduled, in order to receive presentations from outside bodies and that these would be arranged if required:
· Wednesday, 27th January;
· Wednesday, 24th March;
· Wednesday, 28th April;
· Wednesday, 23rd June;
· Wednesday, 22nd September; and
· Wednesday, 27th October.
The information contained in the report associated with the following 3 items were restricted in accordance with Part 1 of Schedule 6 of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 2014.
Resolved – That the Committee agrees to exclude the members of the press and public from the meeting during discussion of the items as, due to the nature of the items, there would be a disclosure of exempt information as described in Section 42(4) and Section 6 of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 2014.
The Strategic Director of Place and Economy provided an overview of the report.
During discussion, Members raised queries in relation to an update on current arrangements with GLL in terms of finance and staffing, an update on the Government’s new furlough scheme and how it might be used by the Council, and confirmation of Civic Amenity Site finance.
The Committee noted the contents of the report which had been presented to the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee in October and noted that the questions which had been raised by Members would be submitted to the Director of Finance for comment.
The Zoo - Performance Update Q2 2020/21
The Neighbourhood Services Manager (North) delivered an update on the performance of the Zoo across the following areas:
· Visitor Services;
· Education Services;
· Animal Collection;
· Marketing and Events; and
· Financial performance.
She highlighted that BIAZA had held its annual awards for a range of zoo related categories. The Zoo’s first Bronze award came with Animal Care, Husbandry and Breeding, with a focus on the François Langur monkey. This award focused on all the excellent work the Zoo had carried out over the years with the Francois, the aim for the award was primarily on breeding and introduction of individuals into an established group. A second Bronze was awarded to Education with the ‘Science behind the Zoo’ event.
During discussion, the Committee praised the staff for the increase in revenue and for obtaining the awards in such challenging times.
In response to Members’ Questions, the Neighbourhood Services Manager (North) advised that the feasibility study on the Zoo was still in progress and engagement with Members would commence in due course. She stated that an update in relation to the disability access and changing station works would be provided.
The Committee noted the Zoo performance update report for the period July – September 2020 and agreed that the Chairperson send a letter of Congratulations to the staff at the Zoo, in relation to the 2 Bronze awards obtained at the annual BIAZA awards.
DfC Covid-19 Revitalisation Programme; Community and Business Cluster Interventions
The Director of City Regeneration and Development provided an overview of theproposed process for the delivery of business cluster and the community led environmental improvement scheme element of the DfC Covid-19 Revitalisation Programme, including the delivery of citywide parklets and other similar interventions, together with an indicative timeline and eligibility criteria.
During discussion, Councillor McMullan welcomed the report and its inclusion of his motion - Installation of Additional Parklets on Arterial Routes and in Neighbourhood Areas, which had been proposed at the Council meeting on 2nd November, and which had been subsequently referred to the Committee for consideration, as outlined under Item. 3a.
During further discussion, Members raised queries in relation to the timelines for delivery of the projects, given the funding deadline and also the need for a partnership approach across the Council, Department for Infrastructure and Department for Communities. It was highlighted that this was particularly important where any proposals involved Departmental lands, or required approvals via the respective Departments, and the availability of staff resources to assist in the delivery.
Moved by Councillor McMullan,
Seconded by Councillor Hanvey,
Resolved - That the Committee agrees to write to the Ministers for the Department for Communities and the Department for Infrastructure to welcome the project funding as outlined and also highlighting the need for a partnership approach across the respective organisations, including appropriate staff resources, to assist in the delivery of any projects requiring Departmental approvals and intervention.
After discussion, the Committee:-
1. Noted the previously agreed budget commitments to deliver community and business cluster led environment improvement schemes, including parklets or other similar interventions within the overall DfC Covid-19 Revitalisation Programme;
2. Noted that the Tranche 2 Letter of Offer for the Covid-19 Revitalisation Programme was received by Council on 28th October 2020;
3. Agreed the process for allocating Community and Business Cluster Grants as outlined within this paper and associated Appendix 1;
4. Agreed to delegate responsibility to the Strategic Director of Place and Economy to approve applications in line with the proposed process for allocation;
5. Agreed, in accordance with Standing Order 47 (2) (b), that the decisions would not be subject to call-in, on the basis that the decision was deemed to be a case of special urgency; and
6. Agreed to write to the Ministers for the Department for Communities and the Department for Infrastructure to welcome the project funding as outlined and also highlighting the need for a partnership approach across the respective organisations, including appropriate staff resources, to assist in the delivery of any projects requiring Departmental approvals and intervention.
Matters Referred Back from Council
The Committee was reminded that, at the Council meeting on 2nd November, the following motion, which had been proposed by Councillor McMullan and seconded by Councillor McReynolds, had, in accordance with Standing Order 13(f), been referred to the Committee for consideration:
“This Council recognises the importance of reimagining and reallocating community spaces as part of our recovery from COVID-19 for the benefit of local residents and businesses.
In line with our commitment in our ‘Our Recovery’ strategy, this Council will seek to install additional parklets on arterial routes and neighbourhood areas through the Department for Communities Revitalisation Programme, by setting out a specific fund for applications from businesses, institutions, community associations and other eligible applicants to be defined.
On the basis of these applications, Belfast City Council will act as the coordinating partner to lead and set out the process that will develop these physical projects from concept design and community engagement to delivery and monitoring and evaluation, working with the applicants as well as the key stakeholders (including but not exhaustive of the Department for Infrastucture, Imtac and the Department for Communities) in consultation with local residents.
Additionally, the Council agrees to engage with local businesses to improve and enhance a café culture across Belfast.”
The Committee noted the motion and that its contents had been addressed as part of item 2.c).
The Committee was reminded that, at the Council meeting on 2nd November, the following motion, which had been proposed by Councillor Baker and seconded by Councillor McLaughlin, had, in accordance with Standing Order 13(f), been referred to the Committee for consideration:
“Belfast bikes helps encourage citizens and visitors to our city to get around Belfast, while helping reduce our carbon footprint.
Promoting cycling and investing in safe cycle lanes will be paramount in our fight against climate change.
What if we can also help clean the air as we cycle.
A new award winning design called Rolloe transforms the humble bike wheel into an air purifier that sucks in polluted air, filters out the pollutants and releases the clean air back out into the city.
Similar to a motion last year to investigate the potential of city trees, I call on this Council to explore a pilot scheme to use Rolloe on Belfast bikes with the view to use throughout the fleet if successful and help promote all cyclists to explore the usage of Rolloe on their own bikes.”
Both the proposer of the motion Councillor Baker and seconder of the motion Councillor McLaughlin addressed the Committee and outlined the context of the motion.
After discussion, the Committee agreed that consideration of a Pilot Scheme to use Rolloe on Belfast bikes be included as part of the Belfast Bikes Strategic Review and a report on the matter would be submitted to a future meeting.
Request to Present
The Committee agreed that Transport Hub Alternatives Group be invited to attend a future meeting of the Committee.
The Committee agreed that NIHE attend December’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee to provide an update in respect of the development of the City Centre Housing Waiting List, as well as an update on their Housing Programme. The Committee also requested that the NIHE could provide an update on repairs backlog and retrofit programme, if possible, together with their presentation in advance of the meeting.
Growing Business and the Economy
The Committee considered the following report:
“1.0 Purpose of Report or Summary of main Issues
1.1 The purpose of the report is to:
- Advise Members of proposals by the Northern Ireland Executive Office in relation to a High Street Task Force.
- Seek agreement to reinforce the need for Belfast City Council to be represented on this, to help address the challenges faced by the city centre and recognising Belfast’s role as the regional economic driver.
- Advise Members on some of the issues impacting on the city centre and to note the ongoing work undertaken in developing the Future City Centre Programme to help respond to these challenges.
2.1 Members are requested to:
i. Note the proposals by the Northern Ireland Executive Office (TEO) in relation to an emerging High Street Task Force and a request from TEO for the Council to engage with a reference group that is being created in advance of the High Street Task Force.
ii. Agree that the Council respond to TEO confirming agreement to engage with the reference group but to also highlight the importance of being part of the High Street Task Force on its formation. This will include reinforcing the importance and criticality of Belfast as the regional economic driver and the need for a focused and resourced approach in addressing the challenges faced by the city centre.
iii. Note the emerging impacts on the city centre due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
iv. Note the update in relation to the Council’s Future City Centre Programme and the intention to bring a further detailed report back to Committee on the priority areas of focus within this.
3.0 Main report
3.1 The retail and business landscape of the city centre is undoubtedly challenged and already there are a number of well-known high street brands and department stores with presence in Belfast either entering into administration or calling in financial restructuring experts to negotiate leases with landlords. This obviously has a much wider economic impact across all sectors, supply chains and rates income for the city.
3.2 Retail will be one of the most challenging sectors, along with hospitality and tourism, for recovery as the fundamental challenges faced pre-COVID-19 still remain an issue and indeed have been exacerbated with the increase use of online shopping. A proactive response is required to support businesses, SME’s and independents to ensure the resilience of the city centre as a whole. However it is recognised that retail will not be the only casualty as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic as the tourism and hospitality industry in particular is suffering significantly.
3.3 In June 2020, a collective of various public and private bodies jointly called for the Northern Ireland Executive to establish a High Street Taskforce to provide support to businesses through the revitalisation of towns and cities across Northern Ireland. The call requested that businesses and central and local government work together collectively to deliver on much needed regeneration, provide business support, devising ... view the full minutes text for item 14.
The Committee considered the following report:
“1.0 Purpose of Report
1.1 The purpose of this report is to:
· Update the Committee on the Department for Communities (DfC) Employability NI initiative
· Detail the specific proposals around Local Inclusive Labour Market Partnerships (LILMPs) and update on engagement with DfC about how these might work in Belfast
· Secure approval to move forward along the lines agreed with DfC in order to bring forward the partnership in Belfast.
2.1 The Committee is asked to:
· Note the update on Employability NI
· Agree to move forward with DfC as set out within the paper, taking an incremental approach to establishing the Local Inclusive Labour Market Partnership and prioritising key elements of activity.
3.0 Main report
3.1 Employability NI is DfC’s new approach to providing support services for unemployed individuals seeking to get back into to work. Rather than a stand-alone programme, it is a series of interventions that will evolve over time, as legacy programmes (such as Steps to Success and Access to Work) come to an end. It is intended to be a cross governmental approach to co-designing and co-commissioning (including with local government potentially) a sustainable future strategic employment offer which provides a tailored level of support proportionate to need. It has been designed in order to:
· Deliver a reduction in economic inactivity and long-term unemployment to bring NI closer in line with UK rates
· Provide increased support for those with health conditions (esp. mental health) and disabilities
· Create a mechanism for government to collaborate with Councils and other Departments to offer local solutions.
3.2 Since 2018, council officers have been part of the Employability NI Programme Board. The Board’s work has been on hold since early 2020 but, by that point, there had been broad agreement on the substantive programme elements.
3.3 One of the key elements of the programme design was the proposal to create ‘Local Inclusive Labour Market Partnerships’ in each council area. They were intended to:
· Provide leadership and lead on the integration of services
· Develop local area plans including setting targets for performance
· Manage devolved funding and its delivery through a dynamic purchasing framework
· Manage arrangements for the evaluation of local interventions.
3.4 The proposed composition of the partnership and its structure is set out below.
3.5 While DfC’s original intention was to go live with the new approach from October 2020, COVID-19 has set their programme back to some extent. They are still finalising the work on the Local Inclusive Labour Market Partnerships, with a view to having these operational in each council area at some point in the coming financial year. However, following a series of engagements with officers in Belfast City Council’s Economic Development team, DfC has agreed in principle to move forward with establishing a labour market partnership in Belfast as a precursor to the roll-out across the region. At present, officers are finalising details but it is likely to involve an incremental approach, progressing from oversight of existing and new interventions (including ... view the full minutes text for item 15.
The Committee was reminded that anyone wishing to operate a market or car boot sale within Belfast must apply to Belfast City Council for permission to do so and, depending on the scale and nature of the event, it might need authorisation from the Committee to take place.
The Director of Economic Development advised that applications of this scale had recently been received on behalf of three proposed markets, namely:
· Weekly (Saturday morning) car boot sale in Makro car park, Kingsway, Dunmurry;
· Monthly food and produce market in CS Lewis Square; and
· Trade Local market in the run-up to Christmas at ‘We are Vertigo’ building, Queen’s Road, Titanic Quarter.
However, since the report had been published, the application for a licence from Trade Local market at the ‘We are Vertigo’ building had been withdrawn.
He explained that, in keeping with the current NI Executive regulations, external markets were currently permitted to operate, subject to appropriate risk assessments being in place. As part of the approval process for any market, as a condition of granting a licence, officers requested evidence of support from the land owner, considered the implications on adjacent properties and activities and ensured compliance with all relevant regulations and statutory requirements. For these markets, this would include consideration of guidelines and additional restrictions in place as a result of COVID-19.
He reported that the Weekly car boot sale, at Makro Car Park, Dunmurry was proposing to start at 8am each Saturday and be off site for 13.45pm. Officers had already received confirmation from the car park owners of their permission for the event to take place. At this stage, the event organisers were working on the basis of having around 50 spaces at the event, potentially attracting up to 100 cars as the market developed.
In relation to the monthly food and local produce market, CS Lewis Square, he advised that, as part of their proposals to animate Connswater Community Greenway and CS Lewis Square, Eastside Partnership was proposing to organise a monthly market featuring local food and produce. Indicative operating hours were 2pm-5pm (original request was 1pm to 5pm but officers considered that the earlier start could have a negative impact on St George’s Market). Organisers had proposed the first market for Saturday, 21st November, with the next being a two day market proposed for Saturday, 12th and Sunday, 13th December. Organisers were currently working on the basis of attracting 30-40 traders at each monthly market.
During discussion, the Director of Economic Development answered Members’ questions in relation to the application process and the impact of Covid-19 restrictions.
After discussion, the Committee:
· Agreed to grant the licence for the running of a weekly (Saturday) car boot sale within the grounds of the Makro car park in Dunmurry, subject to compliance with all relevant legal and statutory requirements;
· Agreed to grant a licence to EastSide Greenways for the running of a monthly market in C.S. Lewis Square, subject to compliance with all relevant legal and statutory requirements, and ... view the full minutes text for item 16.
Regenerating Places and Improving Infrastructure
The Committee considered the following report:
“1.0 Purpose of Report or Summary of Main Issues
1.1 Following discussion at the Planning Committee of the 13th October 2020 a request was raised to bring forward an update on the development and current active use of car clubs to be brought to the November City Growth and Regeneration Committee meeting.
2.1 The Committee is asked to:-
1) Note the current position regarding the provision of Car Clubs in Belfast when compared with the rest of the UK and Ireland;
2) Note the statistics from established Car Club areas across the UK and Ireland; and
3) Note the role of the Belfast Metropolitan Transport Plan and Local Development Plan in effecting modal shift and demand management within the city
3.0 Main Report
Background & Current position
3.1 A Car Club is a membership based service that provides members with convenient and affordable access to vehicles 24/7/365. A member of a Car Club can:
· Book a car online or on the phone, weeks ahead or with just a few minutes’ notice;
· Unlock a car in their neighbourhood, parked in a designated parking bay; and
· Pay automatically from their account. Costs typically range from £4 to £8 per hour, (including fuel, insurance and maintenance) whilst mileage fees start at £0.15/ mile.
The annual membership for Belfast’s Enterprise CarClub is currently £20.
3.2 Car clubs in Northern Ireland are fewer and less well established than in other parts of the UK and Ireland. Enterprise CarClub is currently the only operator offering a Car Club service in Belfast. In contrast, cities like Bristol and Brighton, which have a well-established and vibrant city centre residential presence, also have embedded Car Club provision after successful campaigns to change parking attitudes & behaviours. Both the Belfast Agenda and Belfast City Centre Regeneration and Investment Strategy (BCCRIS) aim to accelerate city centre living through the reimagined and resurgent transformation of underutilised prime city centre land. The Bolder Vision for Belfast, a jointly commissioned DfI, DfC and BCC report outlines the key principles for connectivity within the city including prioritising integrated walking, cycling and public transport and end the dominance of the car.
3.3 A number of Build to Rent and mixed-use schemes have received planning approval with zero parking requirement, that being contingent upon a Green Travel Plan which include requirement for provision of Car Club spaces and subsidised membership for future occupiers, as set out in their respective S76 Planning Agreement. However, these schemes have not been constructed to date, and thus there is limited intelligence available to gauge the success of Car Clubs in Belfast. However there are a number of data sets available based on established Car Club initiatives across the UK and Ireland.
3.4 It is anticipated that once the permitted schemes are constructed, and occupied, the presence of and demand for Car Clubs within Belfast will expand considerably – matched by the City Centre living, which is clearly a key objective for the City Council through ... view the full minutes text for item 18.
The Committee was reminded that, at its meeting in August, it had agreed to issue a letter to the Minister for Communities and the Minister for Infrastructure outlining the Committee’s concerns regarding the enhancement of junctions and improving walking and cycling connectivity as part of the Shankill Gateway Public Realm Scheme, which was being progressed by the Department for Communities (DfC).
TheDirector of City Regeneration and Development explained that the original designs which had been submitted for planning approval, following extensive community and statutory engagement, had included alterations to the junction by removing unnecessary road infrastructure and removing additional pedestrian crossing locations while increasing pavement space and introducing additional green landscaping. However, the design were superseded immediately prior to the granting of planning approval and without wider consultation, with a design that maintained the layout of the current junction.
She advised that the letter to the Minister raised concerns that this change did not address the issues presented by the hard infrastructure layout of the inner ring. It further highlighted that the approved design did not take into account the collective Council, DfI and DfC ‘Bolder Vision for Belfast’ which provided for prioritisation of integrated walking, cycling and public transport and the need to address severance and barriers to movement between the centre of Belfast and the surrounding communities.
The letter to the Minister had advised that, whilst Council was supportive of the investment to enhance this location, it was felt there was an opportunity to bring greater benefit than the current scheme design proposes, particularly in terms of safe pedestrian and cycle movements, and reducing severance through this key junction.
The Director of City Regeneration and Development provided an overview of the response from the Belfast Regeneration Directorate on behalf of the Minister for Communities (copy available at Appendix 1).
She highlighted that DfC had commenced to discharge some of the planning conditions associated with the planning condition for the scheme (under planning application LA04/2019/0200/F). She also explained that, following on from the launch of the Bolder Vision for Belfast, a jointly commissioned and endorsed report by the Council, DfC and the Department for Infrastructure (DfI), Council officers were engaging with officials from both Departments through a Junctions Working Group to bring forward and accelerate the delivery of improved connections at the Inner Ring Junctions under the agreed principles of the Bolder Vision.
She advised that, through this group, and with regard to the current proposals for the Shankill Gateway Public Realm Environment Improvement scheme, there remained concerns that the opportunity to address this junction during a current capital works scheme would be missed, and that it was unclear as to when, or how the junction improvement works would be delivered.
She highlighted that, since the report had been published, a response from the Minister for Infrastructure had also been received which advised that whilst the scheme initially included a new layout to improve pedestrianisation, cycling and public transport facilities, this required more detailed consideration of the ... view the full minutes text for item 19.
The Strategic Director of Place and Economy provided an update on the findings of the Department for Infrastructure’s Ministerial call for evidence in relation to a potential Infrastructure Commission for Northern Ireland.
He reminded the Committee that, in September 2020, the Minister for Infrastructure undertook a Call for Evidence to establish the need and support for, and role of, a potential Infrastructure Commission for Northern Ireland. As reported to the City Growth and Regeneration Committee in September, due to the timescales involved, Council officers had provided a draft response to the Call for Evidence, subject to Committee and Council approval. He stated that the Belfast Commissioner for Resilience, Grainia Long; the Belfast Digital Innovation Commissioner, Jayne Brady; and Solace, (represented by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council’s Chief Executive) had also provided evidence to the panel on 7th September.
He advised that the Council response to the call for evidence was attached at Appendix A, and, following stakeholder and consultee engagement, a report had now been published capturing the findings of the Ministerial Advisory panel (Appendix B).
The Committee noted:
· That the Ministerial Advisory panel had recommended that an Infrastructure Commission, with a clear remit and the support of the entire Northern Ireland Executive, should be established as soon as practical; and
· The further findings of the Ministerial Advisory panel regarding the role and remit of an Infrastructure Commission for Northern Ireland, as set out in the Ministerial Advisory Panel Report.
The Committee was reminded that on 4th March it had considered the findings of the East Belfast Depot report which undertook a site search process to identify suitable locations for a potential relocation of the East Belfast Depot.
The site search process identified a number of potential sites, however, all of them had been discounted on the basis that they did not meet the operational requirements of the public transport network. Specifically a number of identified potential sites were located further from the primary transportation corridors that the depot served, and would perform worse than the existing depot, in terms of the key commercial consideration of minimising ‘dead mileage’.
The Director of City Regeneration and Development advised that, at its meeting on 4th March, the Committee had granted approval for a letter to be issued to the Minister for Infrastructure requesting that the findings of the site search and the operational requirements of Translink be given further consideration in the context of the impact of the current depot location on neighbouring residential amenity.
She highlighted that, in response, the Minister had confirmed receipt of the site search report and had advised that she would respond to the findings set out in the report in due course.
During discussion, in response to a Member highlighting the time taken to issue correspondence to Ministers, it was acknowledged that there had been some delay due to other pressures but the Committee was assured that the correspondence would be followed up on.
After discussion, the Committee noted the response from the Minister for Infrastructure (Appendix 1) in relation to the East Belfast Depot Site report previously undertaken by the Council.