Agenda and minutes

Contact: Eilish McGoldrick, Democratic Services Officer 

Items
No. Item

1a

Apologies

Minutes:

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

 

1b

Minutes

Minutes:

            The minutes of the meeting of 9th December were taken as read and signed as correct.  It was reported that those minutes had been adopted by the Council at its meeting on 7th January.

 

1c

Declarations of Interest

Minutes:

            Councillors Beattie, Hanvey, Lyons and O’Hara declared an interest in relation to item 4.b) Covid-19 Health and Safety Adjustments to Cruise Belfast Welcome Hub, in that they were Members of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners.

 

2.

Additional Item - Condolences to Norman Houston

Minutes:

            The Chairperson extended his condolences to the family of Norman Houston, Northern Ireland’s former representative in Washington DC, following his recent death and paid tribute to his work as Head of the Northern Ireland Bureau and contribution to promoting Northern Ireland in the United States and beyond. Members of the Committee also expressed their sympathy.

 

            The Committee agreed to request that the Lord Mayor writes a letter to Norman Houston's family expressing condolences and deepest sympathy, together with thanks for his many years of service to Northern Ireland that benefitted the city, in particular its civil and business relationships in the United States.

 

3.

Restricted Items

Minutes:

            The information contained in the report associated with the following 2 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.

 

4.

Finance Update

Minutes:

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

 

5.

DfC Revitalisation Fund Update

Minutes:

            The Director of City Regeneration and Development provided an update on theDfC Covid-19 Revitalisation Programme, which included:

 

·        An overview of Tranche 1 & Tranche 2 - Signage and Dressing, Physical Improvements and Streetscape Improvements;

·        Business Grants Updates - Covid-19 Business Grant Scheme, Business Cluster and Community Grant Scheme, Additional funding of Business Grant Support; and

·        DfI Active and Sustainable Travel Measures.

 

            During discussion, Members raised queries in relation to the funds available for sustainable transport and the feasibility of expanding the network. The Director of City Regeneration and Development advised that she would pass on comments to the relevant Team and that this could be looked at as part of the wider Cycling Strategy. The Director of Economic Development pointed out that the open call for charities, social enterprises and co-operative’s to apply to receive the old bike stock had been issued and an update would be provided on who receives the bikes, would be provided in due course.

 

            During further discussion, the Director of City Regeneration and Development explained that 8 applications had been received for the Cluster Scheme Fund and it was anticipated that more applications were forthcoming.  In response to Members questions in relation to the flexibility and demand of the grants which had been ring-fenced, she highlighted that the Council had been liaising with the Department for Communities in this regard. She advised that the Committee would be kept up to date on both these issues.

 

            The Committee noted:

 

·        that £3.585m had been received through the DfC Covid-19 Programme to date, with work packages in place to roll out the Tranche 1 and Tranche 2 work streams as per Committee approvals received to date and updated within the report;

·        that a further Letter of Offer for £454k for business grant support had been received on 8th December and agreed through the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee on 18th December, bringing the total funding allocation for this programme to £4.039m; and

·        that further updates would be provided in relation to the Business Grants outlined in the report, and the reallocation of the existing Belfast Bikes. 

 

6.

Request to Present

7.

Request for Presentation - BID One pdf icon PDF 252 KB

Minutes:

            The Committee was reminded that the Businesses located within the BID area had agreed a five year business plan and to pay a mandatory annual contribution to the delivery of the business plan, based on the NAV of their property.  The Director of Economic Development explained that the BID services must demonstrate that they were additional to core services that were being delivered by other statutory partners (such as the Council, Department for Communities, and Department for Infrastructure etc.).  Belfast One was the first BID to be established in Belfast in April 2016 and, in line with the legislation governing BIDs, it must now go to a re-ballot if it was to be extended for another five years. 

 

            The Director of Economic Development advised that Belfast One BID was managed by a small core team and was supported by a Board which had representation across all business sectors in the Belfast One area.  The Council had an advisor role on the Board through staff from the Place and Economy Department.  He pointed out that officers from other departments – particularly City and Neighbourhoods – also worked very closely with the BID on issues such as street cleansing, addressing anti-social behaviour and city promotion. 

 

            He highlighted that Belfast One had now produced a draft business plan for the coming five year period and it was using this business plan as the basis of a consultation and engagement process with levy payers, with a view to securing its re-election for a further five year period. 

 

            He explained that the ballot would open on 21st January, closing on 25th March 2021 and all levy payers would be entitled to vote in the ballot.  He pointed out that, as the Council had a number of properties in the BID One area, it would be entitled to a vote for each of the properties.

 

            The Director of Economic Development advised that, in order to raise awareness of the work of the BID and its plans for the new five year period from April 2021, it was proposed that a presentation on the draft business plan was made at the February meeting of the City Growth and Regeneration Committee. 

 

The Committee agreed to receive a presentation from the BID Team at the February meeting of the Committee and noted the upcoming ballot for BID and the change to the closing date to 25th March, 2021.

 

8.

Growing Business & the Economy

9.

Sunday Opening Hours for Retailers pdf icon PDF 253 KB

Minutes:

            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 update members on the uptake of extended Sunday trading in the run-up to Christmas and to advise the committee of requests to extend Sunday opening hours for large retailers in order to support the management of shopper numbers as part of ongoing social distancing measures.

 

2.0       Recommendations

 

2.1       The Committee is asked to:

 

·        Note the uptake of extended Sunday opening hours in the run-up to Christmas

·        Consider the request from large retailers to support extended Sunday opening hours (in line with Northern Ireland Executive guidance) on a temporary basis, to be reviewed by 5 April 2021, as part of the efforts to manage shopper volume and support social distancing.

·        Agree, in accordance with Standing Order 47 (a) (2) (c), that the aforementioned decisions would not be subject to call-in, on the basis that an unreasonable delay could be prejudicial to the Council’s or the public’s interest.

 

3.0       Main report

 

3.1       Members will be aware that, during the initial period of lockdown from late March 2020, Belfast City Council agreed not to take enforcement action again those essential retailers that opened earlier than the current permitted opening time of 1pm on a Sunday (for large stores as smaller stores are already permitted to open).  This measure was put in place to support healthcare staff and vulnerable individuals in particular, and there was no end date to retain flexibility throughout the uncertain period.

 

3.2       From end June 2020, the retail sector was permitted to re-open in line with the various measures set out in the Northern Ireland Executive’s Pathway to Recovery.  However, since then, the Executive has also announced a number of shorter and more focused closures for certain sectors including close contact services and hospitality. 

 

3.3       The current Northern Ireland Executive guidance – which became operational on 26 December 2020 – confirms that only those retailers deemed as ‘essential’ retail are permitted to remain open at this time.  This decision is to be reviewed after four weeks but the Executive has suggested that it expects that these restrictions will remain in place for six weeks (i.e. until 6 February 2021 at least).

 

3.4       Taking account of the specific challenges faced by the retail sector, and as a means of managing numbers wishing to access retail premises in the run-up to Christmas, the council advised businesses that it would not carry out enforcement action for all types of large retail shops (essential and non-essential) should they open or deliver from 10am onwards on a Sunday (up to 6pm). This was a temporary arrangement, running from 22 November 2020 to 10 January 2021.

 

3.5       In the context of the current NI Executive guidance, business organisations and individual retailers have been engaging with the council to feed back on the impact of the temporary non-enforcement approach in the run-up to Christmas and to request that the council considers extending this approach  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Covid-19 Health and Safety Adjustments to Cruise Belfast Welcome Hub pdf icon PDF 254 KB

Minutes:

            The Committee was provided with an update on the Council’s work plans, in partnership with Tourism NI and Visit Belfast, to facilitate necessary health and safety adjustments to the Cruise Belfast Welcome Hub and neighbouring berths at Belfast Harbour, in advance of the cruise season which was due to commence in March 2021.

 

            The Committee was reminded that, in 2019, a partnership between Tourism NI, Visit Belfast and Belfast Harbour saw the opening of a dedicated cruise terminal in Belfast. It was reported that the cruise terminal facilities currently included:

 

        Cruise visitor information centre;

        Shore excursion coach parking;

        Dedicated shuttle bus space;

        Taxi rank;

        Free Wifi;

        Destination showcase video wall;

        Gift shop;

        Washroom facilities including disabled access WC;

        Security desks; and

        Seating.

 

            The Director of Economic Development advised that Belfast’s visitor economy had been severely challenged by Covid-19 and it was anticipated that many of the challenges that the pandemic had brought to the tourism and hospitality industry might be with us for some time in the future.

 

            He explained that, in order to ensure that Belfast was ready to allow the first cruise ship of the season to dock in the city on 7th March, 2021, Tourism NI had agreed to allocate up to £110,000 of capital investment for the Council to administer to Visit Belfast and Belfast Harbour to allow for specific Covid-19 health and safety adjustments to be made to the terminal and surrounding passenger docking areas. The adjustments would be made in the terminal itself and at the 3 berths in Belfast Harbour where a ship might dock (D1, Stormont Dock and Pollock Dock).

 

            The Director of Economic Development explained that examples of adjustments included, but were not limited to, protective screens, internal and external directional signage, temperature check stations and hand sanitizing stands. He advised that these adjustments would give assurance to visitors that Belfast was a safe place to visit as well as being necessary to reduce the potential spread of the virus.

 

            He highlighted that, in order to ensure good corporate governance, it was proposed that an agreement was set up by the Council to facilitate the transfer of funds from Tourism NI to Visit Belfast.  

 

            During discussion, one Member highlighted the work of the International Team, the stakeholder group meetings and the International Relations Framework. The Director of Economic Development pointed out that, although work on the International Framework had currently been suspended, work was still being undertaken to maintain international relationships.

 

After discussion, the Committee noted the contents of the report and agreed that the Council works in partnership with Tourism NI and Visit Belfast to facilitate necessary Covid-19 health and safety upgrades using appropriate contractual mechanisms as advised by Legal Services.

 

The Committee also noted that a report would be submitted to a future meeting in relation to the International Framework Review, once staff resources became available.

 

11.

Call for Evidence - Union Connectivity Review pdf icon PDF 161 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

            The Committee considered the following report and associated appendix:

 

“1.0     Purpose of Report or Summary of main Issues

 

1.1       This report seeks the Committee’s approval to submit a response to the independent review for the UK Government (Department for Transport) led by Sir Peter Hendy on how the quality and availability of transport infrastructure connections across the UK can support economic growth and quality of life, with a specific focus on NI connections.

 

2.0       Recommendations

 

2.1       The Committee is asked to:

 

·        Consider and agree to submit the draft response to the call for evidence and to note that the deadline for receipt of submissions is 14 January 2021.

 

3.0       Main report

 

3.1       Belfast City Council senior officers were invited to participate in a discussion with Sir Peter Hendy and other NI local government officers on 16th December 2020 in relation to transport infrastructure connections across the UK. Arising from this, it was felt that the Committee may wish that a formal response be submitted to the Call for Evidence.

 

3.2       The terms of reference for the independent review are available at:  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/union-connectivity-review-terms-of-reference/union-connectivity-review-terms-of-reference. An extension to the deadline of 30 December 2020 has been secured to 14 January 2021, to enable the Committee to consider the draft response, attached at Appendix 1.

 

            Key Issues

 

3.3       The independent review covers transport connectivity between England, Scotland, Wales and NI via road, rail and air, and sea.  It asks for details across three broad areas:

 

-        the current strategy for growing the economy and improving the quality of life

-        information on the volume of current travel journeys and the need for/impact of improved transport connectivity

-        information on improvements and restrictions to NI connectivity links with England, Scotland and Wales

 

3.4       It will provide independent advice to the UK government on how connectivity can help support economic growth and quality of life post-COVID-19.  The timeframe is for an interim report will be published at the end of January 2021, with recommendations due in the summer 2021.

 

3.5       The draft response, in Appendix 1, follows on from the 16th December discussions, providing additional detail and focusing on NI connectivity. It draws on the agreed Council position in relation to:

 

-        The Council’s response to the South West Scotland Transport Study, agreed by Strategic Policy & Resources Committee in 2019.  This recognises the importance of sea connectivity between Belfast and Cairnryan, along with the A77 road improvements to enhance connectivity links between Cairnryan and the rest of Scotland, which the Scottish government has approved. 

-        The importance of regional air routes for businesses and connectivity to other core cities; including the impact of the loss of Flybe from George Best Belfast City Airport, in line with the Council motion in March 2020.

-        The opportunity presented by the Belfast-Dublin Economic Corridor and high-speed rail service to improve connectivity between the core cites on the island of Ireland.

-        The Council’s response to the DfI Call for Evidence on the Ministerial Advisory Panel for Infrastructure, considered  ...  view the full minutes text for item 11.

12.

Issues Raised in Advance by Members

Minutes:

            Before Councillors proposed the following three agenda items, the Strategic Director of Place and Economy explained the impact of the current pandemic on the organisation’s capacity to continue to deliver vital services. He highlighted that it was unlikely that staff would be in a position to undertake significant additional work raised through this route in respect of new areas of work for some time. 

 

13.

Alternative to York Street Interchange (Cllr O'Hara to raise)

Minutes:

            Councillor O’Hara advised that he had been liaising with various groups and individuals, including Mr. Mark Hackett, in relation to alternative designs to York Street Interchange and suggested the Committee invite Mr. Hackett to a future Committee to present his ideas.

 

            The Director pointed out that, as the Council was not a technical body for the roads network, officers would not be able to provide advice on the competency of alternative schemes presented to the Council.

 

            After discussion, the Committee agreed to receive a presentation from Mr. M. Hackett on the issue raised at a future meeting.

 

14.

Fra McCann's (MLA) Proposals for Free Car Parking at Hospitals (Cllr O'Hara to raise)

Minutes:

            Councillor O’Hara suggested that, following the debate on the issue at the Council Meeting on 1st September under the motion ‘Free Car Parking for Health Workers, Patients and Visitors’, the Committee writes to Mr. F. McCann MLA to reiterate the outcome of the debate.

            During discussion, the Senior Democratic Services Officer confirmed that, following the Council meeting in September, correspondence had already been sent to the Minister for Infrastructure and the Minister for Healthto outline the Council’s position on the issue.

 

Noted.

 

15.

Environmental Infrastructure in Council Car Parks (Cllr Heading to raise)

Minutes:

            Councillor Heading suggested that the Council examine the feasibility of a pilot scheme to provide car parking spaces for electric cars in council car parks to incentivize the use of electric cars in the city and noted that associated infrastructure could also be provided under other work streams at a later stage.

 

The Committee noted that the issue would be investigated, once resources became available, and agreed that a report, on how this could be facilitated, resourced, managed, be brought back in due course.

 

16.

Disabled Parking Accreditation Scheme (Cllr McMullan to raise) pdf icon PDF 103 KB

Minutes:

            On behalf of Councillor McMullan, Councillor Mulholland outlined the following proposal:

 

            “This Council is committed to ensuring that the city and neighbourhood areas of Belfast are accessible and inclusive for disabled people, older people and carers. This Council recognises that access to a car is central to the independence of many people with mobility issues but notes the low provision of accessible bay parking spaces in its off-street car parks with just 3% of its spaces designated as accessible across the city.

 

            This Council agrees to join Disability Motoring UK’s Disabled Parking Accreditation scheme to improve the minimum number, size and quality of our accessible bay parking spaces. This Council further notes this is one of many interventions that need to be taken by this Council and partners as part of our commitment to an inclusive COVID-19 response and recovery and our commitment in the Belfast Agenda to become an accessible city for all by 2035.”

 

            After discussion, the Committee noted that the issue would be investigated, once resources became available, and agreed that a report, on how this could be facilitated, resourced, managed, be brought back in due course.