Agenda item


            The Committee was provided with an end of year progress update (Appendix 1) on the key actions contained in the 2022-23 which Committee Plan, as agreed by the Committee in June 2021, together with the draft Committee Plan for 2023-24 (Appendix 2).


            The Director of City Regeneration and Development advised that the 2022-23 Committee Plan End of Year Report (EOYR) and the draft Plan for 2023-24 were both developed in the context of the Council’s Corporate Plan and the Belfast Agenda, in particular taking into account the emerging work underway with the Belfast Agenda Refresh. Consequently, the new Committee Plan contained the commitments within the Corporate Delivery Plan, which fell under the remit of this Committee, plus additional deliverables that had been agreed by the Committee throughout the 22/23 period and were relevant to the Standing Orders. She reported that the Plan outlined the main priorities and programmes of work that the Committee was overseeing to maximise the Council’s contribution to the Belfast Agenda.


Committee Plan 2022-23 End of Year Report


            The Director of City Regeneration and Development pointed out that, while the Committee had received regular updates on progress for specific programmes and initiatives, Appendix 1 set out an overview of progress against the main commitments in the Committee Plan 2022-2023. She explained that the End of Year Report focussed on the second half of the financial year as members had already received a six-monthly update in December 2022’s committee.


            She informed the Committee that highlights from the EOYR included:


·        The Council had improved its Global Destination Sustainability Index rating to 8thout of 65 other cities across the world. 80% of Belfast Hotel Rooms were now Green Tourism Certified;

·        Belfast was named the world’s best conference destination for a 2nd consecutive year;

·        £17m had been secured for an 11-council Entrepreneurship Support Service;

·        The Council had engaged with 755 individuals, supporting them to progress to start a business;

·        60 Social Enterprises and Co-operatives had received one-to-one mentoring, advice and guidance; four were new co-operatives; and 25 events/ workshops were delivered with over 300 attendees;

·        The £50,000 Social Economy Incentive Fund was launched in September 2022 to support social economy businesses business growth plans;

·        The Council had won ‘Council of the Year’ at the Social Enterprise Northern Ireland Awards in October 2022;

·        The Belfast-Dublin strategy and action plan had been finalised. This helped a successful joint application with Dublin City Council to the Shared Island Fund for a €250,000 award to conduct a feasibility study on circular economy facilities in both cities;

·        By the end of Quarter 3 the zoo had welcomed 184k visitors. This was 14k higher than the five-year average;

·        The assembly of the two remaining properties, for Belfast Stories, had been completed. The Council was in ownership of all properties at the site and the project was currently out to procurement for the Integrated Design Team;

·        Since September, the GCSE support programme had engaged 281 young people. The Council were also supporting 170 young people through our Youth Support Programme. So far, 87 had completed accredited training and 65 were undertaking essential skills qualifications;

·        Since April 2022, the Council had had over 700 places on Employment Academies. On average, 93% of those who started an Employment Academy successfully completed, and for those, achieved an into-work rate of 75%;

·        The Vacant-to-Vibrant Pilot Grant scheme was launched. To date, 32 applications had been supported by officers to develop their applications, with 6 of those already approved and a further two recommendations for approval at this Committee meeting;

·        The emerging draft Bolder Vision Strategy had been approved by the Committee in August 2022 with work ongoing to finalise the Strategy and Action Plan with the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) and the Department for Communities (DfC) and bring it forward.

·        The Renewed Ambition Programme of work, to promote Belfast, was completed with local partners;

·        The Council established new City Centre Governance structures including a Members City Centre Area Working Group to help to progress priorities and address issues;

·        The Council commenced delivery of Public Realm Catalyst projects aligned to Developer Contributions including Great Victoria Street/Shaftsbury Square area and Little York Street / Little Patrick Street.

·        The Council delivered the majority of the £4.039m of the DfC Covid Revitalisation Programme with work ongoing to deliver the final two projects;

·        DfI had provided the Council with a Letter of Offer to fund the “Grey to Green” programme in March 2023 (subject to capital approvals);

·        The Southwest Quarter Revitalisation proposal had received a letter of offer of £250k from DfC;

·        The Council had progressed its plans to improve active travel options for the city including Active Travel Enablers / covered cycle stores; secured cycle parking at Castle Court, the Active Travel Hub at QUB, the Cathedral Quarter Active Travel Hub, and three new Belfast Bikes stations;

·        The Council finalised a number of Pre-Applications Discussions on the emerging Housing Led Regeneration sites, progressed Memorandum’s of Understanding with other public landowners, completed concept regeneration plans and had opened an Expression of Interest process to engage the investment and development market to bring these regeneration opportunities forward at scale; and

·        The Council had completed the City Centre Living Vision with key findings and recommendations to be brought back to Members.


Draft Committee Plan 2023-24


            The Director of City Regeneration and Development stated that the draft Committee Plan for 2023-24 (Appendix 2) followed a similar structure to the Corporate Delivery Plan, plus additional deliverables that had been agreed by the Committee and that were relevant to the Standing Orders of the Committee.


            She pointed out that highlights within the plan included:


·        Further development of the Neighbourhood Tourism Investment Programme;

·        Delivering the Music Strategy and Belfast 2024;

·        Delivering a programme of City Events;

·        Introducing the new Entrepreneurship Support Service (ESS) in September 2023;

·        Finalising the refreshed Social Economy Action Plan and introducing a new incentive to improve the financial management skills of new and growing social enterprises;

·        Undertaking a development and investment plan to support the sustainability of St. George’s market;

·        Completing Belfast Stories Audit and commence RIBA 2 design consultation;

·        Working with the Partnership Boards and the Education Inequalities sub-group to secure longer-term options to support young people;

·        Delivery of Employment Academies in priority areas;

·        Progressing the Belfast Labour Market Partnership including extending the Digital Badging initiative and progressing the Bridges to Progression service to support 180 young people;

·        Finalising A Bolder Vision Strategy and Action Plan taking a civic lead on delivering a significant transformation of the city centre streets and places;

·        Advancing Public Realm Catalyst Schemes aligned to the Developer Contributions, including the 5Cs, Little York/Little Patrick Street, Blackstaff Square and Great Victoria Street;

·        Providing input and strategic direction to major regeneration and development projects, including maximising regeneration impact of the Belfast Stories;

·        Leading the Community Planning Partnership’s City Development Board on the identified priorities of housing-led regeneration; connectivity, active and sustainable travel; Future City Centre; and citywide regeneration and investment;

·        Working with partners to maximise residential development opportunities and jointly working to overcome obstacles to increasing residential development including city centre living;

·        Producing a lobby position paper to advocate for devolution to Council of enhanced regeneration powers and associated funding;

·        Taking forward a Regeneration Framework and Project Prioritisation process together with associated feasibility studies and business case development to attract the necessary investment for city-wide regeneration priorities;

·        Finalise a Competitive Dialogue process to attract investment at scale for the delivery of housing-led regeneration;

·        Concluding the Development Brief process for the INW Northern Cluster;

·        Continuing working through the City Development Board (Housing Led Regeneration Group) to analyse public sector land ownership in a city-wide context identified through the Urban Capacity Study and Housing Monitor to identify opportunities for housing together with other privately owned land;

·        Progressing next steps for development of identified sites under the citywide strategic sites assessment process, including Member engagement; planning and site appraisals and feasibility studies;

·        Continue to work through the City Development Board (and Housing Led Regeneration Group) to identify inhibitors to delivering housing opportunities progressing and to identify mechanisms to unlock these challenges;

·        Working with partners to promote and develop regeneration opportunities within the Innovation District;

·        Delivering remaining projects under DfC’s Covid Recovery Revitalisation Programme;

·        Delivering Tranche 3 of the Business Cluster and Community Grants;

·        Delivering the Vacant-to-Vibrant Capital Grant scheme;

·        Progressing the future-use options and attracting funding for 2 Royal Avenue; and promoting the Sixth investment and development opportunity; and

·        Delivering the Tactical Regeneration projects, including Grey to Green, Active Travel Enablers, 5C’s Revitalisation Programme, and Entries Phase 2 programme physical projects.


Progress Reports


            The Director of City Regeneration and Development advised that, following agreement on the draft Committee Plan, officers would bring a six-monthly progress report against all commitments in the Committee Plan in October 2023 and a further end of year report in April 2024.


            During discussion, the Director of City Regeneration and Development highlighted that, in relation to ‘Working with partners to promote and develop regeneration opportunities within the Innovation District’ outlined in the report,  whilst this had been previously brought via the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee, it was noted that work was to be commissioned via the Innovation City Belfast Partnership (including Belfast City Council as a partner) to undertake a spatial plan to consider the emerging Innovation District in more detail, and that a future report would be brought to the Committee and included as part of the 2023 / 2024 City Growth and Regeneration Committee Plan.


            She also confirmed that, in relation to the refresh of the Car Parking Strategy being deferred pending the finalisation of the Local Development Plan and Belfast Metropolitan Transport Plan (BMTP), officers had met with DfI recently and they had noted that progress was underway, in particular, in how the BMTP related to the Climate Action Pan. She advised that the Committee would be kept up to date with the progress of the BMTP.


            After discussion, the Committee:


·        Noted the contents of the end of year report; and

·        Approved the City Growth and Regeneration Committee Plan for 2023-24.


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