Northern Ireland

City Deal 'will transform economy in Derry and north west'

A number of projects centred on Ulster University's Magee campus will be used as catalysts to develop the north west economy.
A number of projects centred on Ulster University's Magee campus will be used as catalysts to develop the north west economy.

A new £250m City Deal signed for Derry and the north-west will completely transform the region following decades of underinvestment, it has been claimed.

The Stormont Executive, Derry City and Strabane District Council and Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis yesterday signed off on the “heads of terms” of the deal which has been described as a “game changer” for the area’s economy.

Under the terms of the deal, £250m will be invested over the next 15 years creating up to 7,000 new jobs. The largest single financial investment ever in Derry and Strabane, £105m is being provided by the British government and Stormont executive with a further £40m provided by the council.

At the centre of the deal are a number of projects which will be used as catalysts for greater development. These include the new School of Medicine at Ulster University, a new centre for industrial digitalisation, robotics and automation and a new cognitive analytics research laboratory which will develop technologies for future innovation. A new transformation healthcare research project will create a healthcare quarter at Strand Road.

There are also plans to regenerate Derry city centre and river front with the creation of “tree-lined avenues, pedestrian and cycle routes and people-friendly pedestrian squares and meeting points”. In Strabane, there are plans to transform the town’s Canal Basin to create a leisure centre, health hub and higher and further education campus.

A key focus of the deal is the promotion of tourism projects, including Derry’s Maritime Museum and “walled city experience” along with plans for great use of SMART technologies. Young people have also been placed at the centre of the deal with a focus on providing jobs and skills opportunities.

Approving the deal, Secretary of State, Mr Lewis also revealed that talks between the British government and Stormont were continuing over the increase in student numbers at Ulster University’s Magee campus.

The deal has been welcomed across the political spectrum. First Minister Arlene Foster said it was an “important milestone” while Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill described it as a “game-changer” for the north west economy.

Derry MP and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said yesterday’s development was a “significant step forward”.

“The City Deal is a great start and should be seen as the beginning of the transformation of the north west’s economy, not the end,” he said.

Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon said it was a significant move “after decades of underinvestment” while Finance Minister, Conor Murphy predicted it would bring greater prosperity.

“It is a very timely boost for the people of the north west in what has been an extremely tough year,” he said.

Derry mayor, Brian Tierney said the funding package would “change the future” of Derry and the entire region.

It was also welcomed by Derry Alliance councillor, Rachel Ferguson, Invest NI CEO, Kevin Holland Professor Paul Bartholomew, Ulster University’s vice chancellor, who described it as a “bold, transformational plan”.