Agenda and minutes

Venue: Lavery Room - City Hall

Contact: Carolyn Donnelly, Democratic Services Officer 

No. Item




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





            The minutes of the meeting of the Committee of 6th April were taken as read and signed as correct.  It was reported that those minutes had been adopted by the Council at its meeting on 9th May.



Declarations of Interest


            Councillors Beattie, Lyons and O’Hara declared an interest in relation to item 4(a), under the heading ‘Freeport/Innovation Zones’ in that they were on the Board of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners and left the meeting while the item was under consideration.






Translink - Weavers Cross Regeneration Scheme pdf icon PDF 176 KB


            The Chairperson introduced representatives from Translink and Weavers Cross to the meeting: Mr. L. McComb, Mr D. McAllister, Mr. D. Taggart and Ms. H. Harrison, to provide an update on the Belfast Transport Hub at Weavers Cross.


            Mr. McAllister outlined the ongoing building works and progress of four major projects which were being carried out on site and stated that rail and bus operations would continue throughout the construction process until 2024, when the site would then be occupied by Translink.


            He referred to recent branding and marketing activities  how the transport hub had been launched as Belfast Grand Central Station, and he stated that it had been well received with positive feedback


            He explained to the Committee the investment priorities for Translink between 2020 and 2030, which included transport hubs, integrated ticketing, rail infrastructure, decarbonising its fleet and all-island connectivity.


            Ms. Harrison highlighted Translink’s recent success at the National Social Value awards and explained the social value activities, such as employment academies, and outlined the benefits, to date, of the Busway Bridge project.


            She referred to arts and heritage activities and community engagement and plans to work with art projects in both Sandy Row and Grosvenor Road, which would allow young people in the areas to showcase what they would like to see and work to move those ideas to move forward.


            Mr. McComb outlined how the project was an integral part of the newly reimagined Belfast and that, it linked to other schemes being undertaken in the city such as the new Ulster University.


            Ms. Harrison pointed out how the project aligned with some key Council strategies, which included the Belfast Agenda, Bolder Vision, Resilience Strategy and the Inclusive Growth Strategy.


            Mr. McComb concluded the presentation with an overview of the Weavers Cross Masterplan and outlined the benefits of the project. He referred to it being the main transport hub for all of Northern Ireland with strong political and community support and exemplary social, economic and environmental credentials.


            In response to a question from a Member regarding the planting of trees to improve air quality in the area, Mr. McAllister stated that diesel engines were being phased out over the following ten years in favour of electric and hybrid alternatives, in both buses and trains.  He added that the building would draw all of its power efficiently using green energy forms.  Ms. Harrison added that tree planting and landscape works had been designed in detail and would be in place prior to or immediately after the opening of the hub. 


            A number of Members expressed concern regarding displacement of traffic, particularly with regard to Sandy Row. Mr. McAllister responded by stating that the design of the new bus yard had taken into account 2000 additional passenger journeys per day, accounting for those who would previously have used a diesel or petrol car and entering the city centre and that work was being undertaken and would report those calculations back to the Committee in due course.


            The Chairperson thanked  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.


Requests to present


Renewed Ambition Task Force pdf icon PDF 165 KB


            The Committee agreed to receive a presentation from representatives of the Renewed Ambition Partnership Task Force, and its commissioned consultants, in relation to a report which examined the role that the built environment plays in delivering social, economic and environmental benefits to Belfast and the wider Belfast City Region.



Department for Infrastructure - Spring and Autumn Report 2022 pdf icon PDF 252 KB


            The Committee agreed to receive presentations from DfI on their Spring and Autumn 2022 reports and to delegate authority to the Director of City Regeneration and Development to schedule future DfI Spring and Autumn reports and presentations to the Committee. 


            The Committee further agreed to consider any strategic city infrastructure questions to put to officers from the Department for Infrastructure at the presentation of the spring report to the Committee. 



Pragma Consulting - Retail and Leisure Performance Strategy pdf icon PDF 336 KB


            The Committee agreed to receive a presentation from Pragma Ltd in relation to the findings of the Retail and Leisure Performance Strategy at its Special Meeting, which was scheduled to take place on 22nd June, 2022



Positioning Belfast to comptete


Freeport/Innovation Zones pdf icon PDF 360 KB


(Councillors Beattie, Lyons and O’Hara, having declared an interest in this item,

left the meeting for the duration.)


            The Director of Economic Development updated the Committee on developments with regard to Freeports across the UK, and that, following the publication of the English Freeport Prospectus, eight freeports had been designated. 


            He outlined the current Freeport model, which aimed to support a place with a clear economic geography and outer boundary that must contain at least one port, one customs site and one tax site, and that, Freeport bids had initially been expected to be led and operated by the private sector. However, due to the due diligence that would be required to draw down public funding, they had become increasingly public sector led.


            He described the Scottish Government’s Greenport proposal, where nine areas were being considered for the establishment of two Green Freeports and how the UK Government had indicated that it would continue to work with devolved administrations in order to extend the Freeport programme across the whole of the UK.


            He referred to the emerging Northern Ireland proposition, which had resulted from a strategic appraisal of a Freeport proposition, the findings of which identified the potential for a Northern Ireland Innovation Zone to deliver innovative and sustainable economic growth for the region.  He outlined a range of objectives which had emerged from the strategic appraisal, which included:


·        Innovation;

·        Competitiveness and productivity;

·        Trade and investment;

·        Regeneration; and

·        Net zero.


            He pointed out that the emerging proposition had considered specific circumstances in Northern Ireland which would require enhanced investment and that any Northern Ireland bid would have to be constructed in a unique way and that the submission of several Innovation Zones could result in competing bids.


            The Director of Economic Development stated that the City Deals would play an integral role in supporting some of the NI Innovation Zone components and that tax incentives could increase the attractiveness of the region to the private sector and  support the delivery of the priorities of various regional and sectoral economic strategies.


            The Committee agreed to note the content of the report and it was


            Moved by Councillor McLoughlin,

            Seconded by Councillor Heading,


      That officers would no longer explore the potential for a Freeport, as part of a Northern Ireland Innovation Zone.


            On a vote, six Members voted for the proposal and five against and it was declared carried.



Update on Harkin International Disability Employment Summit pdf icon PDF 237 KB


The Director of Economic Development informed the Committee that the Harkin Summit had been conceived in 2016 by Senator Tom Harkin, who represented Iowa in the United States Congress for more than four decades and had led on legislation to protect the civil rights of millions of Americans with physical and mental disabilities. 


He stated that the summit was internationally recognised as a platform which brought leaders and activists together to highlight and address disability employment issues, showcase best practice and to build relationships.


            He reported that the event would take place in the ICC Belfast on 7th and 8th June, 2022, which would be the first time that the summit had taken place outside of of USA, and it had been expected that the event would attract more than 400 international delegates over the two days.  He added that the Council would be hosting the conference reception in City Hall and that the Lord Mayor had been invited to make an address at the event. 


            He pointed out how the summit aligned with a new strategy which was being developed by the Department for Communities, which was to support access to employment for those with a disability and that the Department would use the event as a launchpad for a range of legacy interventions to increase access to employment for those with disabilities.


            He stated that many local organisations would promote their activities during the event, which would offer an opportunity to both learn from good practice and to promote the many positive interventions underway in the city for access to employment for those with a disability.


            The Committee:


·        Noted the Harkin International Disability Employment Summit, scheduled to take place in Belfast on 7th-8th June 2022;

·        Noted the commitment to securing a significant legacy from the event, which included the proposals around access to employment, mentoring and work experience; and

·        Agreed to promote the event through networks and contacts, to maximise impact and support the wider discussion on a new disability employment strategy which was being led by the Department for Communities.



Electronic Travel Authorisation pdf icon PDF 500 KB

Additional documents:


            The Committee considered the undernoted report:


“1.0     Purpose of Report or Summary of main Issues


1.1       At a meeting of City Growth and Regeneration Committee on 6th April 2022, the Director of Economic Development was asked to update Members on the impact of the introduction of the proposed Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) for travel between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.  The purpose of this report is to update Members on the evidence heard by and presented to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at the House of Commons on 20th April 2022.



2.0       Recommendations


2.1       Members are asked to:


·        Note the contents of this report

·        A further update on the progression of the legislation and how the ETA will operate will be brought to a future Committee.


3.0       Main report


3.1       Background to the proposed Electronic Travel Authorisation Scheme

Under new post-Brexit immigration and border control legislation going through Westminster, non-Irish EU citizens living in or visiting the Republic of Ireland would require an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) to cross the border into Northern Ireland.  The Nationality and Borders Bill is primarily an asylum and immigration bill, however the new legislation extends to short visits into the UK, so tourists will have to comply.

Last month, MPs voted 298 to 216, majority 82, on the Nationality and Borders Bill to reject a Lord’s amendment to the Bill which sought to remove the requirement for foreigners to need an ETA.  The Bill is now at the consideration of amendments stage and it is planned that the ETA will be fully operational by the start of 2025.

The visa-waiver style scheme, which would be similar to the one used in the US, would not apply to Irish or UK citizens, who are guaranteed free movement around the island under the terms of the long-standing common travel area (CTA) agreement.

·        It would require non-British and non-Irish EU citizens to apply for pre-travel clearance.


·        An ETA will be required for those international tourists who want to travel onwards to Northern Ireland, even if it is just for a day trip.


·        The system would be similar to the declaration that international passengers have to fill in before travelling to the United States or Canada.


The draft bill contains measures to require non-British and non-Irish nationals to apply in advance for permission to travel to the UK via an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme. The Government has not yet announced full details of the ETA such as how much it will cost, but there are concerns, highlighted by votes in the House of Lords, that the ETA could be a disproportionate response by the Government to concerns about issues such as people trafficking.  The UK Government has insisted the ETA process will be simple and will not involve physical checks on the border. 

3.2       Impact on Belfast and Northern Ireland –

Oral evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee


3.3       Oral evidence on the introduction of the ETA was heard by the Northern Ireland Affairs  ...  view the full minutes text for item 11.


Belfast Stories Update pdf icon PDF 360 KB

Additional documents:


The Committee considered the undernoted report which was accompanied by a presentation, which was delivered by the Project Director and Strategic Lead of Belfast Destination Hub:


“1.0     Purpose of Report or Summary of Main Issues


1.1            The purpose of this report is to:


-        Update Members on the Belfast Stories programme as part of the Belfast Region City Deal including the development of a Stories Collection Framework.

-        Outline emerging engagement plans and seek approval to undertake a public consultation.

2.0       Recommendations


2.1       The Committee is asked to:

-           Note the contents of this report and progress against Belfast Stories programme of work.

-           Agree to complete a public consultation exercise to include elements of the Stories Collection Framework as set out in Appendix 1.

-           Agree to hold a Members’ workshop in August 2022 as part of the consultation process.

-           Agree to receive a future report setting out the key findings of the public consultation and recommendations on next steps.


3.0       Main Report


3.1       Members will be aware that Belfast Stories is the Council’s flagship project under the Belfast Region City Deal and is due to open in 2028.  Several important milestones in relation to the project have been achieved including the acquisition of the site for Belfast Stories in October 2021 and the signing of the Deal Document for the BRCD and press launch of Belfast Stories in December 2021.


3.2       Members will be aware that majority of the site (95%) was secured by BCC for Belfast Stories and that negotiations for the acquisition of two smaller properties on the site are ongoing. 


3.3       Strategic Policy and Resources Committee agreed at its meeting on 19th November 2021 to progress a number of key pieces of work, in order to ensure we meet the 2028 anticipated opening date including the appointment of the integrated design team, the exhibition design team and the stories collection.  City Growth and Regeneration Committee received a programme update in December 2021 where Members noted that a further presentation would be brought to Committee in 2022.


Programme Update


3.4       Progress against the agreed programme is ongoing.


3.5       Members will be aware that an initial Outline Business Case was completed in 2020 in advance of the purchase of the site. This work will now be updated to reflect progress and project development. Following engagement with Tourism NI and the Department for Economy (DfE) and an assessment of options by the project team it is proposed that an updated Outline Business Case is submitted when concept designs have been further developed to RIBA Stage 2 in 2023, when the project would then move to departmental casework review. We have requested BRCD approval to move to this approach via the Tourism and Regeneration Advisory Board and the BRCD Executive Board.


3.6       To align with Belfast City Council’s Net Zero Carbon Roadmap for Belfast and the Resilience Strategy, a feasibility study has been commissioned to assess the viability of using geothermal technology to meet the building’s heating and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 12.


Strategic and Operational Issues


City Regeneration and Development Work Programme 2022/23 pdf icon PDF 393 KB


The Committee considered the undernoted report:


“1.0     Purpose of Report or Summary of main Issues

1.1            The purpose of this report is to provide Members with an overview on the work programme of City Regeneration & Development for 2022 – 2023, and to seek approval to progress necessary procurement for key actions in 22/23 aligned to the priorities of this Committee as well as the wide strategic corporate objectives of the Belfast Agenda.


2.0       Recommendations


2.1       The Members of the Committee are asked to:


·        Note the 2021 – 2022 progress across the regeneration and development activities aligned to the City Regeneration and Development Division.

·        Agree the outlined activities for 2022 - 2023 as set out in the report including the budget implications as below being met from approved and existing departmental budget.

·        Agree that necessary procurement processes (including the invitation of tenders and/or the use of appropriate framework arrangements) be initiated for any of the planned City Regeneration and Development activities for 22/23 as required and in line with the approved departmental budget.


3.0       Background


3.1       The City Regeneration and Development Division are focused on supporting the priorities of this Committee which include:


·        Enabling and shaping city regeneration, development and investment ensuring alignment across the Place and Economy Department and wider organisation, in order to deliver on the Council’s Strategic objectives for the physical and inclusive development of the city.

·        Delivery of programmes and projects within Belfast City Centre Regeneration Investment Strategy (BCCRIS) and associated Masterplans together with other citywide regeneration activities, as aligned with the Belfast Agenda, Belfast: Our Recovery, Corporate Plan 2019 - 2023 and the Improvement Plan 2022 – 2023. With an understanding that underpinning the delivery of regeneration and development is the ability to attract investment to ensure a thriving city, maximising the regeneration impact to deliver on inclusive growth.


3.2       In 2021 – 2022, despite the challenges of the Pandemic, significant progress was made across regeneration and development in the city. Specifically, some key highlights in relation to the role of the City Regeneration and Development Division this included:


·        Delivery of £4.039m DfC Covid-19 Revitalisation Programme including Business and Community Cluster Programme Grant across the city, active travel measures, new social and placemaking projects across the city, and notably the award-winning Belfast Entries programme

·        Continuing to develop A Bolder Vision Strategy with DfC and DfI including the completion of the public consultation exercise. The Bolder Vision Strategy will provide a more holistic approach to infrastructure and major development investment, providing more of an onus on delivering transformative place-making and regeneration opportunities within our collective capital public and private investment plans, aligned to the principles and Key Moves of the Bolder Vision.

·        The acquisition of the site for Belfast’s flagship BRCD project Belfast Stories which will be housed in one of Belfast’s most beloved heritage buildings, the art deco former Bank of Ireland building on Royal Avenue, along with the surrounding 4,000sq metres site.

·        The acquisition of 2 Royal Avenue and working to develop long term  ...  view the full minutes text for item 14.


Issues Raised in Advance by Members


Cut in Student Places announced by Queen's University - Councillor Heading


Councillor Heading referred to an event which had been held at Queen’s University Belfast, with the Confederation of British Industry and local politicians, where the Vice Chancellor had included in a speech to the group that the university might have to cut more than 1500 undergraduate student places by 2025.


Councillor Heading expressed his concern at the Vice Chancellor’s remarks and the impact that such cuts could have upon the economy of Belfast and he highlighted that the Council had passed numerous planning applications for student accommodation based on the city moving forward to becoming a high-tech student city.


He stated that he felt that it would be useful for the Committee to ask representatives from the university to come and explain the reasons for a potential cut in student places and to discuss the impact on course provision, university staff, the local economy and the quality of the education system in Northern Ireland.


The Committee agreed to invite representatives from Queen’s University Belfast and the Department for the Economy’s Higher Education Unit to a future meeting of the Committee to discuss the decision to cut student places and its impact upon students.