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Mayor hails First and Deputy First Ministers meeting as symbolic

24 March 2016

A meeting held by the First and Deputy First Ministers with the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr Elisha McCallion, the Council’s Chief Executive John Kelpie and a number of elected representatives today, has been described as hugely symbolic.

Speaking following the meeting, which was held ahead of the NI Executive meeting in Derry today, the Mayor said she was delighted the First and Deputy First Minister took time out of their busy diaries to meet with Council.

The Mayor, Cllr Elisha McCallion described the meeting as hugely symbolic and extremely positive saying it was an excellent opportunity for Council to set out to the Ministers, the excellent work being done by new Council to develop its key strategic priorities and to outline a number of key areas where the Executive can help us make further progress to drive our economy and help build communities in a sustainable environment through our Community Plan. She said the Council was keen that key projects for the Council area are included in the emerging Programme for Government that will create new opportunities to sustain, promote and create jobs for the North West region.

She said that through the Community Plan, the Council is continuing to work in close partnership with other public service providers and departments to influence positive economic social and environmental regeneration not only for the city and district but the wider North West region and across the North.

A wide range of issues were discussed at the meeting in addition to progress on the Community Plan, there was a strong emphasis on the expansion at Ulster University at Magee and the need for progress on the outline business plan for the expansion that was submitted to the Department for Education and Learning in January.

Mayor McCallion said: “The expansion of Magee remains one of the Council’s key strategic objectives. We have presented a very strong business case that clearly outlines not only the benefits for the city and district but the huge benefits for the North West region and the North as a whole. The expansion of Magee will be good for the wider economy in that it will create 1,000 new jobs and bring an added GVA of over £44m to the local economy. Council in close partnership with our key stakeholders remain committed to growing our reputation as a vibrant university city.”

Connectivity in terms of the dualling of the A5 and A6 roads network and the upgrade of the A2 Buncrana Road network were also raised at the meeting with elected members setting out the need for these projects to progress to help us attract investment and business. Members acknowledged the recent rail investment but highlighted the need for investment at the local rail station and for increased rail frequency between Derry and Belfast, while the need for a new NI Air Route Development Fund was outlined as key priority to attract new routes and investment at the City of Derry Airport.

Job creation and the need for Central Government investment at key regional sites at Ebrington, Fort George and the Strabane Business Park was outlined at the meeting with members reiterated the need for works to progress at the A2 road network so that projects such as the second phase of the Science Park, the development of the Arntz Belting site and the proposed new leisure facility at Templemore, can proceed. In terms of rural development the need for investment in broadband services, particularly in rural areas, was also highlighted.

John Kelpie, Chief Executive with Derry City and Strabane District Council said Council welcomed the opportunity to meet with the First and Deputy First Ministers so they outline at first hand the strong strategic focus by Council moving forward.

“This meeting allowed us to outline the positive work we are doing to stimulate growth and how we are working collectively to develop and implement our Community Plan and our Investment plan. We outlined to the Ministers the Council’s key strategic priorities that will enhance our communities and ultimately put us in the driving seat to become the central hub for the North West. Through our £64.4m capital investment programme and our investment in events and culture through our Year of Food, the Foyle Maritime Festival and the return of the Clipper race fleet, we are in a strong position to create opportunities to sustain, promote and create jobs.

“The meeting today was our opportunity to set out those goals and objectives and put forward a strong, united case for the Executive to ensure that the city is identified as the North West hub in the Programme for Government so we can unlock the city and district’s huge potential that will benefit the wider North West region,” he added.