The Committee considered a report which provided an update on the current status of the ‘Bolder Vision Connectivity Study for Belfast’, together with an update on the York St Interchange review and proposals for a framework for community consultation on planning decisions.
A Bolder Vision for Belfast
The Director of City Regeneration and Development reminded the Committee that in August 2019, Council, the Department for Communities (DfC) and the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) agreed to jointly commission a three-phased City Centre Connectivity Study, a ‘Bolder Vision for Belfast’.
She advised that Phase 1 had been completed and ‘A Bolder Vision for Belfast’ was ratified by Council in March 2020. In June 2020 the Committee had noted that the Ministers for DfI and DfC had been asked to endorse the Bolder Vision and commit to progressing the future phases and seek to embed the Framework in the Programme for Government.
She informed the Committee that, for the next phases, the intention was to develop an action plan to outline scenarios, projects and delivery options based on the Future Vision. This would be used to inform further discussion with key civic partners, businesses, communities, Third Sector organisations, interest groups, statutory authorities and city leaders.
She recommended that the Committee noted that the Bolder Vision for Belfast had now been formally endorsed by both the Ministers for DfC and DfI, along with a commitment to working together collaboratively to consult widely with the public and other stakeholders to agree on a final Vision which would help guide future infrastructure investment decisions. She highlighted that it was proposed to formally launch the Vision jointly with DfI and DfC in the near future and discussions were ongoing with DfI and DfC in terms of progressing with the next phases.
She reported that, as the City begins its recovery post-Covid, and with the challenges that would remain in the coming months, there was renewed emphasis on how we use our City Centre spaces safely, whilst also promoting active travel. Some of the interventions coming forward to help address these challenges align with the ethos of the Bolder Vision and there was an opportunity to build on these, subject to stakeholder support and resources.
York St Interchange
The Director of City Regeneration and Development advised that the DfI Minister had announced that an external review would take place to future proof the York Street Interchange Project in advance of moving to the procurement phase of the project through discussions with specialists and stakeholders. She recommended that the Chairman of the City Growth and Regeneration Committee formally writes to the Minister to welcome the proposed review, and to offer an opportunity for the Committee to engage with the process during the external review.
Ulster University Partnership Project
The Director of City Regeneration and Development reported that Ulster University had been selected to be a part of the UK wide Connecting Communities for Quality of Life Project, which would develop a framework for community consultation on planning decisions, supporting the development of community empowerment and paving the way for more resilient developments in the future. She advised that, as a key city stakeholder, the Council had the opportunity to partner with the Ulster University on this 30 month project. The Project would offer a framework to gain an improved understanding of what communities want, and how best to gain this information through the planning consultation process whilst enhancing social value and an improved process for joined up, long term consultation with communities on planning issues. She highlighted that it was proposed that new formats would be developed based on a review of best practice in community consultation in collaboration with CaCHE - the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (www.housingevidence.ac.uk). As part of the Project the emerging framework would be tested and refined through pilot consultations which would take place in Reading, Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh. She confirmed that further details would be brought back to Committee as the work progressed.
· Noted the DfC and DfI Ministerial endorsement of the Bolder Vision for Belfast;
· Agreed to write to the DfI Minister to support the external review of the York Street Interchange, and to offer an opportunity to engage with the review process; and
· Agreed to support a partnership project with Ulster University and other stakeholders in relation to a UK-wide planning community consultation research project.