Plans for regeneration of Newry move a step closer

Mark Murnin, chair of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, with the Council's chief executive Liam Hannaway

THE regeneration of Newry city centre has taken a significant step closer after a major report by international consultants Deloitte laid out plans aimed at delivering new investment, creating jobs and attracting visitors.

The report, presented to the Council's strategic projects working group, specifically details the financial viability of a range of investment projects including the creation of a new civic hub, a theatre/conferencing centre, and a range of hotel and office developments.

And it outlined how, if these elements were in place, Newry could likely expect to attract fresh investment from outside the area and reinforce its position as a regional gateway city between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The report was backed by two in-depth studies on both the office and hotel sector in the city by global real estate consultancy CBRE.

It found that Newry currently suffered from a low provision of office accommodation, which would only likely be overcome if speculative development was encouraged by a public-sector body such as the Council.

CBRE's report outlined how economic growth, employment levels, business rates income would all benefit from new occupiers locating in the city, attracted by a pool of well-educated talent and taking advantage of attractive occupation costs.

It also highlighted the success of office development schemes in nearby Belfast, where locations such as the Gasworks, the Harbour Estate, Science Park, and Titanic Quarter were all developed speculatively and now enjoy high levels of occupation.

Brian Lavery from CBRE said: “We believe there is capacity for a hotel development in Newry City. There is currently limited supply which cannot meet the demand from, in particular, tour operator businesses. An increase in the supply of rooms will sit hand in glove with the Council's drive to generate more business and tourism footfall in the area.”

He added: We also see potential for more hotel stock in other areas of the District, for example, Newcastle and Downpatrick albeit there would need to be clarity on a year-round tourist offering, ensuring Newry Mourne and Down realises its potential as a leading tourist destination.”

Newry Council's chief executive Liam Hannaway said it was "a hugely exciting time" for the city.

He added: "We have identified where we can have the biggest impact in forging a city which is able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best on the island in the coming years.

“If we create the right conditions and take steps to address the market failure highlighted in the reports, then we can put in place the infrastructure to build a robust economy and a leading tourist destination, reflecting a forward-thinking Council. The building blocks are already there; we just need to get moving.”

The next stage of the process will now see the procurement of a range of integrated consultants and advisers; surveys and inspections of the Town Hall and Sean Hollywood Arts Centre buildings; the collection of baseline information on current visitor numbers and expenditure; the development of a procurement strategy; soft market engagement with potential delivery partners; the development of an outline business case and development of project management and project governance documentation.

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