Agenda and minutes

Contact: Eilish McGoldrick, Democratic Services Officer 

No. Item




            An apology for inability to attend was reported on behalf of Councillor Donnelly.





            The minutes of the meetings of 11th and 24th November were taken as read and signed as correct.  It was reported that those minutes had been adopted by the Council at its meeting on 1st December, subject to the following amendments of the minutes:


·        Under the heading ‘NI High Street Taskforce and Future City Centre Programme’ to provide that the All-Party Forum, convened following its special meeting held on 2nd August, 2019, to secure the continued operation of the Harland and Wolff Shipyard, be reconvened to engage with local stakeholders, retail units and Trade Unions in order to inform the NI High Street Task Force that had been proposed by the Northern Ireland Executive; and

·        Under the heading ‘Department for Infrastructure Roads - Autumn Report’ to provide that the Council write to the Department for Infrastructure to ask for clarity on its position on increasing sustainable transport in Belfast.



Declarations of Interest


            Councillor T. Kelly declared an interest in relation to item 2.a) Finance Update, in that a family member was on the Board of the community group of Coffee Culture.



Restricted Items

Additional documents:


            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.



Finance Update


            The Strategic Director of Place and Economy provided an overview of the report.


            The Committee noted the contents of the report which had been presented to the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee in November.



Update on City Events Programme 2021/2022


            The Committee was informed of the proposed approach to delivering events in the remainder of the current financial year and the proposed programme of events for 2021/22, which would be delivered and/or supported by the Council’s City Events Unit, together with options for how best to safely deliver events in the context of ongoing COVID-19 and inclusive of budget implications. This included the option for a phased approach to spring events in the form of a City Centre Animation Programme and Creative Installation Programme, with St Patrick’s Day festivities spread out over a 4-day period. 


            During discussion, Members highlighted the requirement for partnership working from the UEFA.


            During further discussion, the Director of Economic Development confirmed that, in relation to St. Patrick’s Day, outdoor events had been scheduled across the city, including the use of Parks. He highlighted that plans were flexible to redesign and schedule.


            In relation to the use of plastic cups at the Belfast Marathon, the Director advised that he would liaise with the organisers on the issue.


            After discussion, the Committee:


·        Noted the proposed approach to St Patrick’s Day in 2021 and agreed to option 2, as outlined in the report;


·        Agreed to the annual programme of Events for 2021/2022 as set out in appendix 1, subject to final approval of departmental budgets;


·        Noted the update on the Belfast Titanic Maritime 5 year Strategy and agreed to option 2 as the preferred option for 2021; and


·        Noted the update on the UEFA Super Cup (August 2021) and agreed to the use of the City Hall for the provision of a dinner.  



Housing Led Regeneration Update


            The Director of City Regeneration and Development provided an update on the progress of the housing led regeneration work which had been undertaken, which included information on  the strategic sites assessment work.


            During discussion, the Director of City Regeneration and Development explained further the process, next steps and the resources that had been put in place to continue the work on strategic site assessments, including a city wide approach.  She advised that further information would be provided as the work progressed.


            In response to a Members question in relation to the Development Brief process for the Inner North West (Northern Cluster) sites, the Director of City Regeneration and Development highlighted that the lands were in the ownership of both the Council and the Department for Communities and the evaluation would be undertaken by Council officers and officials from the Department for Communities and the recommendation would be brought back to the Committee for information, as well as via the Department for Communities governance process. 


            The Committee noted the contents of the report, in particular:


1)     The updates in respect of the ongoing housing led regeneration work, including the strategic site assessments;

2)     The proposals for a City Centre Living Vision document for existing and future residents as set out in the report; and

3)     Housing had been identified as a key priority by the Community Planning Partnership, as well as in the Council’s Recovery Framework in the context of working with partners to bring forward strategic development opportunities. And to further note that the Belfast Innovation and Inclusive Growth Commission had highlighted house building as being a critical lever for driving inclusive economic growth.


            The Committee also noted that, in relation to the Development Brief process for the Inner North West (Northern Cluster), the evaluation would be undertaken by officers from Belfast City Council and officials from the Department for Communities.  The recommendation would be brought back to Committee for information, as well as via the Department for Communities governance process. 





            In the absence of the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman, it was agreed that Councillor McCarthy take the Chair.


(Councillor McCarthy in the Chair)



Northern Ireland Housing Executive - Housing Programme and City Centre Waiting List pdf icon PDF 329 KB

·         Fiona McGrath, Head of Place Shaping Belfast Region

·         Ailbhe Hickey, Acting AD Land & Regeneration

·         Jennifer Hawthorne, Regional Manager, Belfast Region



            The Chairperson introduced Ms. F. McGrath, Head of Place Shaping, Belfast Region, and Ms. J. Hawthorne, Regional Manager, Belfast Region, to the Committee and they were admitted to the meeting.


            Ms. McGrath provided a presentation to update the Committee on the City Centre Latent Demand Waiting List. She advised that this indicated that there was a high demand for social housing and highlighted the pending development opportunities within the City Centre.   Ms. McGrath then provided an update in relation to the existing Common Landlord Areas (CLAs).


            She highlighted that, as of March 2020, the Belfast Waiting list was 10,819, with 8,413 of the applicants in housing stress. She informed the Committee that, in relation to the Current Social Housing Programme: 175 homes had been completed since March 20 and 962 homes were currently on site.


            She explained the drivers for change and how they linked with Council objectives such as the Belfast Agenda’s growth in population target and the Council’s Local Development Plan ambition of 20% affordable housing. She highlighted the potential of continuing to work with the wider public sector, including Belfast City Council, to identify public sector land opportunities.  She advised that the NIHE post Covid-19 recovery would focus on housing opportunities to include City Centre living, also incorporating apartment living as part of mixed use and mixed tenure schemes.


            She provided information on existing CLA’s and the City Centre Latent Demand Test and highlighted that, in March, all applicants and transfers had been written to, in order to ascertain expressions of interest in city centre living. An update was provided in relation to the level of interest received.  Ms McGrath highlighted that the city centre latent demand list would not replace an option for housing in other areas, rather be an additional option. She explained that applicants could continue to register an interest in City Centre Living and they would be written to again as developments come forward.


            In relation to the City Centre Schemes, she reminded the Committee that major new developments were proposed including Sirocco/Waterside, Tribeca and Council/DfC lands.  


            Ms. McGrath summarised the Shared Future ‘Housing for All’ work which had been undertaken by the NIHE, which included a five Year Good Relations Plan and Good Neighbour Agreements. She pointed out that allocations were still assigned to those applicants with the highest points.


             She advised that a list showing the current social housing programme had also been issued to the Committee for information.


            Ms. J. Hawthorne provided an overview of the repairs and maintenance that had been undertaken in Belfast.


            She advised that repairs on NIHE properties had continued throughout the Pandemic and they had received 10% less calls for response maintenance repairs. She informed the Committee that there was a backlog in relation to change in tenancy repairs and explained that supply issues had added to the delays, however, she pointed out that contractors had now been asked to do additional work.


            In regards to planned maintenance, she explained that the work  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.


Regenerating Places and Improving Infrastructure


Future City Centre Programme - Lighting Strategy pdf icon PDF 243 KB

Additional documents:


The Committee was reminded that the Future City Centre (FCC) Programme had been developed in line with the Belfast Agenda, the Local Development Plan, the Inclusive Growth Strategy and the Cultural Strategy (A City Imagining), and had been informed by the Belfast City Centre Regeneration and Investment Strategy (BCCRIS).


            The Director of City Regeneration and Development advised that the Programme was continuing to evolve in the context of COVID-19 and given the range of challenges facing the city centre.


            She reminded the Committee that it had approved the Future City Centre Programme in February 2019, which included the ‘Luminous city – A Lighting Strategy for Belfast’, which had been presented to the Committee in September, with approval granted to proceed with public consultation via the Council’s online engagement platform Citizen Space for a 6 week period over October and November. She reported that officers had also engaged with key Section 75 groups through the Council’s Equality and Diversity Team.


            It was reported that the public consultation closed on 23rdNovember and final amendments had been incorporated into the final document (Appendix A). In terms of delivery, lighting interventions were embedded across a range of projects currently being developed, with the strategy document informing and guiding these.


            The Director of City Regeneration and Development advised that projects were also emerging through the DfC-funded Revitalisation Programme which incorporated lighting features at Castle Place, Adelaide Street, Brunswick Street, James Street South, Union Street and Exchange Place. Entries Phase 2 would also incorporate innovative approaches to lighting, for which designs were in development.


            She pointed out that work was also ongoing to bring forward stand-alone lighting projects in 2021-22 and beyond and officers would continue to profile the strategy to stakeholders as a key document to consult when designing and delivering any and all types of lighting across Belfast.


The Committee noted the progress of ‘Luminous City: A Lighting Strategy’ for Belfast and approved the final document as outlined at Appendix A.



Future of the City - proposed Members Workshop pdf icon PDF 147 KB


It was reported that the Covid-19 pandemic had opened up a debate around urbanisation and the future path cities would take. It was recognised, however, that how cities performed going forward would be critical, particularly in terms of responding to the current Covid crisis and the associated economic, social and environmental challenges. Recent research had highlighted that the coming years were likely to see significant disruption to cities and that there was a need for cities to consider now how they became ‘future fit’.


            The Committee was reminded that there were a number of priority areas of focus for the Council, as set out in the Council’s Recovery Framework, including, for example, the City Deal, the Future City Centre Programme, Housing Led Regeneration, Resilience, Digital and Innovation, Connectivity and Active Travel, Economic Led Programmes.


The Strategic Director of Place and Economy suggested that a workshop be held with Party Group Leaders and Members of the City Growth and Regeneration Committee, on the Future of the City and the priority areas of focus, including the role that Council and other partners could play.


He also advised, at the request of Councillor Heading, the Council, at its meeting in December, had agreed that an All-Party Forum on City Centre be convened. It was proposed that the forum consisted of representatives of each party through nominations from party group leaders, Trade Union officials, relevant business representative organisations and relevant departmental representation.


The Committee:


·        agreed that a workshop be held for the City Growth and Regeneration Committee and Party Group Leaders to consider the Future of the City in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and the associated social, economic and environmental challenges, and noted that further details of the proposed workshop would follow; and

·        noted the composition of a Retail Forum, following the request of Councilor Heading and agreed by Council on Tuesday, 2nd December, to establish an All-Party Forum on City Centre Retail.



Growing Business and the Economy


Tourism Update - 10 Year Plan pdf icon PDF 382 KB


            The Committee considered the following report:


“1.0         Purpose of Report or Summary of main Issues


1.1          At a meeting of City Growth and Regeneration Committee in August 2020, it was agreed that a ten year tourism plan for Belfast would be developed. The purpose of this report is to update Members on the current status of the plan and direction of travel in advance of a full draft being presented in March 2020 for consideration and subsequent public consultation.




2.0          Recommendations


2.1          The Committee is asked to:


-       Note the contents of this report and agree the current direction of travel for the emerging ten year tourism plan.


3.0          Main report


3.1          Members will be aware that at a meeting of City Growth and Regeneration Committee in August 2020 it was agreed that a new ten year tourism plan was to be developed. 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.


3.2          Tourism Growth  Pre Covid-19


               In August 2019 Belfast City Council agreed a new ten year cultural strategy, A City Imagining 2020-2030, to drive transformation in the city. For the first time, the scope of this strategy brought together under one compelling vision a number of areas including tourism, culture, heritage, arts, events and festivals.


3.3          A City Imagining acknowledges that whilst Belfast has enjoyed relative growth in tourism over recent years that in turn has supported regional development, it is necessary to continue to support sustainable tourism development and job creation. Belfast’s first community plan, the Belfast Agenda, also articulates the importance of delivering a culturally vibrant city both for residents and visitors as well as acting as an attractive driver for inward investment. It is anticipated that citywide investment in a culturally vibrant place will support changing perspectives of Belfast as a place to visit, live, work and invest. In order to continue to build on the value of out-of-state tourism and welcome more overnight stays in our visitor accommodation it is essential that we collaborate with our tourism sector to evolve, broaden, deepen and expand the tourism offer currently available in Belfast.


3.4          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  ...  view the full minutes text for item 12.


City Recovery - Update on key enterprise and employability initiatives pdf icon PDF 470 KB


            The Committee considered the following report:


“1.0         Purpose of Report or Summary of main Issues


1.1          At a meeting of City Growth and Regeneration Committee in March 2020, the work programmes to support the delivery of targets under the Growing the Economy and Working and Learning pillars of the Belfast Agenda and the Inclusive Growth Strategy were agreed.  Since then, the council has adopted its recovery plan ‘Belfast: Our Recovery’ which sets out its guiding principles and key priorities to support the city to recover from the ongoing COVID- 19 pandemic.  


1.2          Given the current circumstances and the specific ongoing challenges for Belfast residents and local businesses, the purpose of this report is to update Members on the current status of a number of council-led initiatives to deliver against the priorities of the Belfast: Our Recovery plan. 


2.0          Recommendations


2.1          The Committee is asked to:


·        Note the work undertaken to date by the Economic Development and Employability and Skills teams to deliver against the Council’s recovery plan ‘Belfast: Our Recovery’

·        Approve the budget to support the EmTech MIT conference in May 2021.


3.0          Main report


3.1          Members will be aware that, at the City Growth and Regeneration Committee meeting on 4 March 2020, approval was given for the delivery of the Growing the Economy and Working and Learning work plans for the current financial year. These work plans were developed as part of the council‘s contribution towards the commitments identified under these themes within the Belfast Agenda, and to the corporate plan, as well as supporting the council’s ambitions to deliver inclusive growth.


3.2          This report takes account of the work that has been further developed to support the city recovery plan, Belfast: Our Recovery – focusing on job retention and creation, business support and skills development.  The recovery plan highlights the ongoing impact that COVID-19 is having on our people and city in a variety of ways, with recent statistics highlighting the significant economic challenges for the city to overcome;


·        Contraction in economic output for 2020 likely to be in the region of 12.7% (up from 9.6% in UUEPC’s original forecasts in April 2020).  At a local council level, the reduction in Belfast is expected to be around 10.6%

·        The latest results from InterTradeIreland’s Business Monitor illustrates the impact of COVID-19 and how this has had an impact on growth plans and preparatory work in anticipation of EU Exit. Prior to the pandemic, 57% of Northern Ireland firms say they were in growth mode; this has now dropped to 22%. Meanwhile, the number of businesses that are in are in decline has jumped from 8% and now stands at 46%. The monitor reveals that only 18% of firms have made EU Exit preparations

·        The latest results from the Ulster Bank PMI signalled a stagnation of business activity across the local private sector as new business, backlogs of work, and new orders from abroad and staffing levels all fell again. Meanwhile, business pessimism increased in October with Northern Ireland again  ...  view the full minutes text for item 13.


Request for reduced off-street parking charges during Christmas pdf icon PDF 270 KB


It was reported that correspondence had been received from Belfast City Centre Management Company (BCCM) which outlined a proposal to discount charges in Council run off-street car parks in the lead up to Christmas.


            The Director of City Regeneration and Development advised that officers had consulted with various stakeholders to gauge the levels of support for reducing off-street parking levies. The feedback was summarised as follows:


·        The private sector would not be introducing additional parking discounts as they were down on income already this year. They pointed out that discounts typically led to congestion issues and they were not in favour of off-street car park charges being discounted;

·        A DfI Ministerial decision was required in relation to on-street car parking changes, although officials indicated that they were not supportive of the proposal due to previous congestion issues. DfI had also removed substantial numbers of on-street spaces to date to accommodate safe distancing and promoted active and sustainable travel. However, there were ongoing discussions between DfI, the Council and the Belfast Chamber of Commerce to discuss the ‘red barriers’ and the cordoned off on-street car parking;

·        Views expressed on behalf of businesses indicated that they were not supportive of discounting public parking due to congestion issues and the potential impact on private MSCP operators;

·        Previously, free parking on Council car parks had led to congestion, circulating traffic etc. and was therefore not subsequently encouraged. Council car parks were typically cheaper per hour and had historically attracted all-day parkers, although this user was likely to have changed; and

·        Translink normally introduced fare incentives to promote public transport at Christmas, however, it didn’t look like this would be financially supported this year, although they were more supportive of promotion of public transport than supplemented car parking proposals.


            The Director of City Regeneration and Development advised that, based on the engagement carried out to date,  the discounting of the Council’s off-street car parking facilities could be counter-intuitive at this time and could have a negative impact on the public transportation provision, the private-sector car-parking provision and potentially lead to additional congestion and connectivity issues.


            However, she highlighted that city centre accessibility was a key priority going forward in terms of encouraging people to use the city centre and, to that end, it was proposed that a joined up approach be agreed for the New Year, in conjunction with DfI, Translink, the Council, city centre businesses, the Belfast Chamber of Commerce, BIDs and BCCM. This would also include consultation with the City Reopening External Stakeholder Group and private car park operators to better understand the need, demand and impacts of reviewing the pricing structure for Council operated off-street car parking for 2021.


            During discussion, a Member highlighted that he had liaised with some businesses which concurred with the position as outlined in the report.  A further Member requested that a Review of the Car Parking Strategy be considered as part of the Committee’s Work Programme for 2021/22.


            After discussion, the Committee:


1)     Noted the request  ...  view the full minutes text for item 14.


Additional Item - Upgrade of Belfast Bikes


The Committee noted that, in relation to the upgrade of Belfast Bikes which had been agreed at its meeting of 24th November, an open call for charities, social enterprises and co-operative’s in Belfast which might wish to receive the old bike stock, in the form of a donation, would be issued in due course.