Agenda and minutes

Venue: Lavery Room - City Hall

Contact: Eilish McGoldrick, Democratic Services Officer 

No. Item




            An apology was reported on behalf of Councillor McMullan.





            The minutes of the meeting of the 31st January and 7th February 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 March.



Declarations of Interest


            Councillors Douglas, Nic Bhranair and Walsh declared an interest in item 2.a) Visit Belfast Business Plan 2024-25, as they were on the Board of Visit Belfast but as this was a Council appointment, they did not leave the meeting whilst the item was being considered.


            In relation to item 5.a) Draft response to ACNI strategy consultation, Councillor McDonough-Brown declared an interest in that his mother worked for the Arts Council Northern Ireland and left the meeting while the item was under consideration.





Visit Belfast Business Plan 2024-25 pdf icon PDF 438 KB

Additional documents:


            The Chairperson welcomed to the meeting Mr. G. Lennon, CEO Visit Belfast, and Ms. M. McGivern, Chair of Visit Belfast, to the Committee and they were admitted to the meeting.


            The representatives provided a summary of the Visit Belfast Business Plan 2024 - 25 which had been submitted in advance of the Committee for consideration. He summarised the tourism market in Belfast, together with community regeneration and strategic investment across the city. He explained the overall economic performance and highlighted that Belfast was ranked the 11th most sustainable destination in the world (GDS Index 2023), in the Top 5 destination to visit in the UK 2024 (Time Out), and Best conference destination in the world (C&IT Awards 2021, 2022, 2023)


            He explained the consumer trends of the market included:


·        Short shoulder season breaks;

·        City breaks are back;

·        Tech savy and value driven consumers;

·        Seeking digital simplicity;

·        Escaping stress and monotony;

·        Physical and mental wellbeing;

·        Keen to meet the locals; and

·        Conscious spenders expecting sustainability.


            He described the positive growth outlook for tourism in Belfast and the three year growth targets. He pointed out that growth would not happen without investment; attracting business events, working with the cruise industry and driving off-peak demand. He advised that growth relied on an excellent visitor experience in order to maximise spend when visitors were in Belfast, and to drive repeat visits. He highlighted that growth should be managed responsibly, with minimal environmental impact.


            He summarised their three year strategy 2024–2027 as follows: Grow - the value of tourism to the Belfast City region and its communities; Position - the Belfast City region as a front of mind destination for leisure visits, business events and days out; Experience - the experience for visitors by showcasing Belfast City region as a diverse and welcoming destination with a unique neighbourhood offer; Sustain - its approach to championing sustainability, pioneering impactful initiatives and celebrating Belfast’s story.


            Mr. Lennon advised that the key strategic focus areas included:


·        Neighbourhood tourism;

·        New ways of measuring impact;

·        Belfast 2024;

·        Accelerating digital innovation;

·        Data driven decision making;

·        Enhancing perceptions of Belfast amongst visitors;

·        Increased collaboration;

·        Telling Belfast’s sustainability story; and

·        Enhancing the visitor experience and touchpoints.




            During discussion, the representatives answered a range of questions in relation to neighbourhood tourism, local transport, Casement Park, staff training, social media, data capture, cruise ships and their sustainability, and the marketing of Orangefest.


            The representatives noted the suggestions from the Committee to include Lagan Valley Regional Park in its marketing brochure, and the promotion of neighbourhood Parks.


            During further discussion, the representatives advised that they would explore external marketing guides and follow-up on the suggestion to engage with the North Belfast Heritage Cluster.


            After discussion, the Chairperson thanked the representatives for their attendance and they retired from the meeting.


            The Committee then considered the undernoted report:


“1.0      Purpose of Report or Summary of main Issues


1.1       The purpose of the report is to present the request for funding from Visit Belfast for  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.


Request to Present - Translink: Belfast Grand Central Station pdf icon PDF 190 KB


The Committee agreed to receive a presentation from Translink on the Belfast Grand Central Station at its meeting on 10th April to which all Members be invited to attend.


Restricted Items


            The information contained in the report associated with the following six items was 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 following items as, due to the nature of the items, there would be a disclosure of exempt information as described in Section 42(4) and Schedule 6 of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 2014.


            Members were also reminded that the content of ‘restricted’ reports and any discussion which took place during closed session must be treated as ‘confidential information’ and that no such information should be disclosed to the public as per Paragraph 4.15 of the Code of Conduct.  



Financial Reporting - Quarter 3 Update


            The Committee considered a report on the Quarter 3 financial position for the City Growth and Regeneration Committee including a forecast of the year end outturn.


The Committee noted the report and the associated financial reporting pack.



Belfast Zoo - Quarter 3 Update


            The Director of Economic Development summarised the Zoo performance during Q3 (October to December) of the 2023-24 financial year.


            During discussion, the Director of Economic Development advised that further details in relation to the capybara animal collection and the analysis of Social Media figures would be provided to the Committee.


            After discussion, the Committee:


·        Noted the Zoo performance update report for the period October to December 2023; and

·        Approved the inspection visit associated with the elephants’ transfer.



Belfast Bikes - Quarter 3 Update


The Director of Economic Development provided an update on the performance of the Belfast Bikes scheme in quarter three (1st October, 2023 – 31st December, 2023) of year 8 of operation.


            During discussion, the Director of Economic Development answered a range of questions on relation to vandalism, bike replenishment in busy areas and local distance marketing. He noted that further information would be provided on the new sponsor in due course.


            One Member suggested that a list of current and planned docking stations in each area would be helpful.


            The Committee noted:


·        the update of the Belfast Bikes performance for Year 8 Quarter 3 (October - December) of the financial year;

·         the progress regarding phase one and phase two expansion;

·        the update that the tender would be prepared for a procurement of a new Public Bike Hire Scheme;

·        the current status of appointing a new sponsor for the Public Bike Hire Scheme; and

·        that a list of current and planned docking stations in each area would be collated and shared with the Committee.



A City Imagining Investment Programme: Cultural multi-annual grants Amendment


            It was reported that a correction was required to the appendices which had been presented to the Committee on 10th January, 2024 relating to the award of cultural multi-annual grants funding.


            The Committee noted the correction to Appendix 3 of the original report and approved the updated version.



Markets Update and St George's Market business plan


            The Senior Manager – Economy provided the Committee with an overview of the high-level annual business plan for St. George’s Market for the coming year, together with the quarterly performance and financial update for the period to end December 2023, and information on the operation of the Christmas Market at the City Hall.


            The Committee:


        Noted the update on city markets and note the progress against target on the St George’s Market Business plan agreed at June 2023 Committee; and

        Approved the St George’s Market business plan for 2024/25.



Euros update - official observer programme


            The Committee noted the contents of report and approved the travel arrangements for the UEFA Official Observer Programme and the Champions League - Host City Activation as outlined within the report.



Regenerating Places and Improving Infrastructure


Housing Led Regeneration All Party Roundtable pdf icon PDF 352 KB


            The Committee considered the undernoted report:


“1.0      Purpose of Report/Summary of Main Issues


1.1       To seek approval in convening All Party Round Table meetings, across Members, on various strands of the Housing Led Regeneration programme.


2.0       Recommendation


2.1       The Committee is asked:


i)       to approve convening an All-Party Round Table regarding Housing Led Regeneration work strands across the city that will provide an opportunity for Members to have a focused and informed discussion around this strategic priority, with representation from Party Group Leaders or their nominees.

ii)     Note the updates below in relation to the Inner North West Development Brief; the procurement of a Development Partner / Institutional Investor for the delivery of £630m GDV housing led placemaking regeneration at scale in the city; city wide strategic site assessments and the City Centre Living Vision.


4.0       Main Report


4.1       All Party Round Table discussions


            Members will be aware that Housing Led Regeneration is a strategic priority of this Committee as set out in the Committee Plan under ‘Maximising Housing Development and Regeneration Opportunities’, which aligns into the Strategic Priority of ‘Maximising Housing Development and Regeneration Opportunities’ as set out in the Corporate Plan. Of relevance to highlight is the further synergy to the refreshed Belfast Agenda and the priority theme of ‘Housing Led Regeneration’ under the area of ‘Our Place’. This strategic priority involves the commitment and input from a diverse array of stakeholders, including Council, DfC, other Government departments, NIHE and importantly communities. This includes the work being taken forward by the Community Planning structures via the Housing Led Regeneration Group as part of the Belfast Agenda and via the City Development Board.


4.2       Following recent discussions between officers and Elected Members regarding various matters associated with housing led regeneration including city centre living and given how it cuts across various Committees and via the Community Planning process, it has been proposed that it may be helpful for Members to convene an All-Party Round Table meeting (with PGL or their nominees) to ensure they can see all this work holistically, which is not always possible via the current structures. It will provide an overview of the various streams of work underway including the work of the Housing Led Regeneration Group; NIHE, Housing Association, developer and investor discussions; planning; funding issues etc and where they feed into Council’s strategic priorities and governance structures.  


4.3       Members will be aware of various updates brought to Committee in relation to housing led regeneration activities and by way of very brief update on some of these, the following is highlighted: 


·        As reported to this Committee in September 2023 (subsequently SP&R Committee 2023) the Inner North West Development Brief for lands at Little Donegall St/Library St /Kent St was being reissued following input from DfC (as landowner of part of the lands) and NIHE.  Members will recall that this Development Brief process had previously been paused at the request of Members.  In line with the Committee decisions of September ’23 the reframed Brief has  ...  view the full minutes text for item 11.


Positioning Belfast to Compete


Draft response to ACNI strategy consultation pdf icon PDF 343 KB

Additional documents:


            The Committee was reminded that the Arts Council Northern Ireland (ACNI) had opened a consultation on their Draft 10 year Strategy for Northern Ireland, with the consultation period closing on the 5th April, 2024


            It was reported that this was ACNI’s first ten-year strategy and it had been developed over the course of 2023, including five months of extensive engagement with artists, arts organisations, key representatives across government, businesses and the wider public sector.


            The Director of Economic Development advised that the strategy looked to address the challenges facing society and the sector. Some of the key issues facing the sector identified in the strategy included:


        Standstill funding;

        Return on investment;

        Short term funding cycles;

        Public value placed on arts and artists;

        Attendance and participation;

        Climate emergency;

        Representation and EDI;

        Employment in the arts; and

        Digital economies.


            He advised that the draft Strategy outlined the ACNI’s mission, visions and values aligned to delivery and the document had identified the key challenges and opportunities for growth with outcomes aligned to both the arts sector and society:


1.   A more financially stable arts sector;

2.   A sector that develops, looks after its people and is more inclusive;

3.   A sector that is better supported to develop through experimentation and innovation;

4.   A sector that contributes to social and economic benefits and cares about the environment;

5.   More people from all backgrounds can enjoy arts experiences; and

6.   A sector that is more valued across society and government.


            The Director of Economic Development stated that ACNI now wanted all interested parties to consider the draft proposal and saw the consultation as an opportunity to help shape the final strategy and next steps.


            He highlighted that a summary of the questions posed and draft responses to each of these was attached in Appendix 1 for consideration.  He pointed out that the strategic alignment between Belfast City Council and the Arts Council Northern Ireland was essential for realising our shared vision of a vibrant, inclusive, and culturally rich Belfast. As a result, the draft response recognised the Council’s ambition to support continued innovation, collaboration and partnership in advancing our mutual goals for the arts sector. He advised that the Council welcomed the recognition within the strategy that took cognisance of cross cutting objectives and shared resources that focused efforts and facilitated effective delivery.


            During discussion, Members raised the importance of collaboration across the sector.  The Director of Economic Development advised that he would include this in the consultation response.


After discussion, the Committee noted the contents of report and agreed to the submission of the draft response to the consultation as set out in Appendix 1, subject to the addition of the potential to foster collaborations with Arts Councils and cultural bodies across Ireland and the UK to increase participation in shared initiatives.