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18th May 2009
Minutes of the Economic Development Committee Meeting held on Monday 18 May 2009 at 7.30p.m.in the Council Chamber, Council Offices, 47 Derry Road, Strabane
Present: - In the Chair: Councillor B McMahon
Other Members: Councillors M Boyle, A Bresland, D Breslin, J Donnell, J Emery, D Hussey, T Kerrigan, C McGill, E McMenamin, J McNulty, J O’Kane
Total = 12
In attendance: Chief Executive, Economic Development Manager, Administrative Officer, Steve Chambers – Invest NI, Mary Gormley – Invest NI
Apologies: Councillors G Foley, T McBride and R McHugh
Report by Economic Development Manager
The Economic Development Manager (EDM) presented her report. Arising out of the report the following was discussed.
Economic Development Strategy (Themes)
Theme I: Maximising Collaboration
Clustering for Future EU Funding Programmes
The EDM referred to a report from the Peace III Programme Manager which indicated that to date a total of £2,228,639 had been committed to projects under the North West Peace III Programme, broken down to £1,268,639 allocated under the small grants applications and £960,000 committed to strategic programmes. She noted that the programmes would be delivered directly by member organisations/partner delivery agents which was a new aspect of Peace III. This would see Derry, Omagh and Strabane Councils take the lead in the co-ordination and delivery of programmes to promote acceptance of cultural identity and inclusive celebration, the WELB delivering programmes designed to shape young people’s attitudes and the Western Health Board co-ordinating research to promote the inclusion of ethnic minority communities. It was noted that a sub committee had also been set up to make recommendations on future actions.
Rural Development Programme (RDP)
The EDM advised that her department was currently working with the RDP and other partner Council staff to examine the Expressions of Interest for each area to help define the programmes for application in the future. She noted that funding for each Council’s administration costs had been extended to the end of June 2009 and it was anticipated that the recruitment for relevant posts would progress as soon as all outstanding issues were agreed.
In response to Councillor Breslin, the EDM said that the 2 posts would be for 5 year contracts.
The Chief Executive (CE) said that a meeting would be held with the Human Resources Department to determine the recruitment process. He noted that the posts may be advertised internally in the first instance.
Councillor Breslin welcomed that the posts were based on 5 year contracts which may assist in the level of candidates.
Councillors Hussey and McGill joined the meeting at 7.40pm.
Re-Establishment of Rail Services in the Border Region
The EDM reported that a follow up meeting to a previous presentation to Members on the above, was held with Donegal County Council’s Chief Engineer who was in the process of approaching all the Councils in the North West including Derry, Strabane, Omagh, Fermanagh, Sligo and Monaghan.
It was anticipated that a Steering Committee would be set up to prepare a Business Case with a realistic timeframe of 10-15 years for restoring the rail network. A combined budget of £120,000 was required at this stage with each of the Councils to commit £10,000 to kick-start the project.
Members’ views included the following:
• Very important economically, socially and environmentally and it was clear that improved rail links had helped in the development of other countries
• Availability of budget
• Did not see the direct benefit to Strabane as the rail link would not come through Strabane
• Strabane was included in the proposal and was indicated on the maps/photos
• Reference was made to the Gas to West campaign which Strabane, despite being involved in, was omitted from any resulting factors
• A high speed rail network was needed for the whole island
• Positive project and the reality was that it would assist the district area on many levels
• Current level of funding would only kick start the project and future allocations would be required
• Involvement in the steering group would be important
• Some scepticism was expressed and any development of a rail network would not happen in the lifetime of this Council, therefore it was a responsibility for the new corporate body
• The current Council was responsible for current decisions and had the responsibility to build the economy of the district
• Concerned that Council would be used as a tool to lever money but eventually would have no direct benefit
• Welcomed the proposals and important to be part of this vital link to other parts of the island
• History of railways in Strabane
• Concerns of sustainability of development and Government reluctant to put money into rail networks
• Government Minister referred to refurbishment of railway lines and installation of new lines in Northern Ireland at a recent all island transport conference
• A presentation on the proposals had already been given to Council
• A commitment was required from the Minister who would have ultimate responsibility for such transport links
• A wide range of Councils and Government Departments from both North and South had attended a previous presentation at Donegal County Council offices where enthusiastic support had been given for this development
• Any contribution from Council would be subject to similar contributions, otherwise the feasibility study would not proceed
In response to queries, the EDM said that she was in the process of considering all budgetary accruals and she believed that the funding could be found within the budget.
The CE said that Council was part of a chain running from Fermanagh to Omagh to Strabane to Derry and there were opportunities to get involved. He felt that a proviso could be included regarding the contributions of other parties. He felt that if the project was to proceed, regular updates could be requested.
On the proposal of Councillor McNulty, seconded by Councillor McMenamin, it was agreed with 8 votes for and 4 against that Council commit £10,000 to the project, subject to contributions from other Councils.
Theme II: Developing the Workforce
The 4 E’s Project
The EDM referred to a letter from the Strabane Lifford Women’s Centre, in partnership with the Koram Centre, which had been distributed for Members’ attention. The letter indicated that the 4 E’s Project had been successful in securing £989,857 from the BIG Lottery Fund for a 5 year project and secure training and employment for 100 people. She added that she had met with the group to discuss the deficit in funding required of £80,000 and noted that they were not only seeking the Council’s involvement in the project both as Board Members but also a financial contribution to the project of at least £15,000 for year one to kick-start the project immediately. She noted that she had been prioritising her budget based on the themes of the Economic Development Strategy and said that if Council chose to financially support the project, that the funding could be located from the budget.
Members’ views included the following:
• Indication from the previous presentation was that if the funding was secured from the Big Lottery Fund, that Council would assist where possible
• Nearly £1 million coming into the district and therefore the request should be supported
• Potential to create 100 jobs should be supported and self esteem of target groups improved
• Any potential for Invest NI to provide funding
• Congratulations to be relayed to the group on achieving the funding
• Funding from Council would represent a shortfall in the group’s requirement
• Worthwhile project regarding the provision of retraining for the community’s more vulnerable residents
• Groups were enthusiastic about starting the project
• Request for Member representation on the project management team
The EDM said that a detailed financial breakdown would be requested and certain provisions would be outlined in any letter of offer.
On the proposal of Councillor McMenamin, seconded by Councillor Boyle, it was agreed that funding of £15,000 would be provided, together with a letter of congratulations.
Councillor Hussey, although supportive of the scheme, abstained from the proposal due to a separate funding issue.
In response to Councillor McNulty, the EDM said that the indication was that there would be 2 meetings a year at which the Council representatives would attend.
Pilot ‘Job Ready’ Grant Scheme
The EDM advised that the letters of offer had been prepared and sent out following ratification by Full Council in May.
Councillor McNulty declared an interest.
Theme III: Promoting Competitive Businesses
Invest NI Overseas Representatives
The EDM reported that a joint presentation from Strabane and Derry Councils had been made to 25 of Invest NI overseas representatives on investment and development in the respective areas from which the feedback had been very positive.
Competitiveness & Employment (C & E) European Programme
The EDM reported that funding for the Economic Development Programme of £126,000 had been secured subject to an Economic Appraisal on the Competitiveness & Employment European Programme through the Department of Enterprise Trade & Investment (DETI). She added that DETI were in the process of appointing the consultants to carry out the Economic Appraisal.
Business Innovation and Sustainability Workshops
Basics of selling on eBay
The EDM reported that 11 individuals had taken part in the above workshop and one of the key results was the setting up of an on line ‘ebay shop’ by one of the participant businesses. It was felt that the workshop was very worthwhile and a follow up advanced programme would be beneficial and could perhaps be held in community centres throughout the district.
In response to Councillor Breslin, the EDM said that people of a variety of ages had taken part.
Impact Marketing on a Shoestring
The EDM reported that the above programme was being delivered by local marketing experts and the workshops had been very popular with approximately 20 individuals from businesses attending. She noted that 5 workshops were held and the feedback had been very positive. She paid tribute to the local company, i2Total Marketing who delivered the programme.
Theme IV: Enhancing Image and Environment
Donegal/Strabane HEART Programme
The EDM reported that the HEART Programme Officer (PO) had been undertaking a number of community consultation meetings regarding village renewals, in preparation for the call for funding for a HEART2 project. The PO had noted that while numbers attending the Castlederg consultation were low, there were good attendances in Donemana and Clady. Details of the discussions are outlined below.
In Castlederg the impact of HEART was commended and discussion mainly focused on how to follow on this by addressing littering, waste ground and lobbying for action on derelict/run down commercial property. Castlederg meetings would be re-visited in June.
A number of those present expressed an interest in obtaining a long term lease for the Parish Hall located beside Amity House to enable the extension of meals for the elderly service as well as provide accommodation for a range of activities for older people such as knitting, sewing and painting.
A number of local traffic issues were then discussed at length. The group pointed out that there was currently no footpath from Stoneyfalls Park in Donemana to the chapel in Donemana. It was stated that this was a necessity in Donemana as many people walk to the chapel services and they felt that this was a major health & safety issue.
Another health & safety issue noted was the lack of a footpath from the cricket club to the doctor’s surgery. The PO had pointed out that this had been a priority for HEART1 but that due to problems with land ownership this work was not able to take place. It was agreed that this action would be a priority for any new enhancement project.
The group felt that there was a need for speed ramps at Longland Road as both young and older people availed of the road on a daily basis and it was a very busy road, used for travelling to and from Belfast.
It was noted that some photographs had already been taken. It was agreed that any photographs of issues discussed could be forwarded to the HEART Manager who would bring the issues concerned to the attention of Roads Service if and when the Heart 2 programme commenced.
The group requested the provision of bus shelters in Donemana similar to those already installed by HEART. The request was also made for more benches and planters. The group also said it would like to see the landscaping down at the football pitch and the recycling point finished.
A request was also made for fingerpost signs to be installed to show exactly where Amity House was and the other local facilities such as the doctor’s surgery and the public toilets. It was noted that fingerposts signs had already been purchased via HEART1 and were due to be installed very shortly.
Those present asked that thanks be forwarded to Council’s street cleaning team for the very good work done locally. It was generally agreed that Donemana was looking very improved lately.
Like the Donemana meetings, road traffic issues featured largely in discussions with the local community. Those attending remarked that a major health & safety issue was the fact that there currently was no footpath from Clady to Donneyloop Chapel nor was there any street lighting along that stretch of road. It was noted that many people used the footpath on a daily basis and that the provision of a pedestrian walkway would be a great advantage to Clady.
Another health and safety issue was raised, that being that there was no footpath from the GAA club down to Clady village. The group said that this route was used by many people who walked up to the club on a daily basis and by many young people who trained there.
The group also expressed an interest in obtaining a bus shelter, along with an entry point sign and fingerpost signs along with planters and litter bins.
It was felt by the majority of the group that a retaining wall at the entrance to Clady from Strabane would be a great improvement to the village. [One member suggested a wall like the one recently built at Melmount Villas in Strabane.]
The group also said that a Sculpture or Artwork would be greatly appreciated in Clady and would enhance the image of the village as a gateway point to Donegal.
Lengthy discussion took place on how Clady had suffered as a result of the troubles and how the physical appearance of the town had deteriorated over the years. It was felt that an initiative was required to raise morale locally and create actions and improvements to increase civic pride. It was noted that Clady had a very rich cultural history with many notable historic sites in its locality. It was felt that a good starting point would be to unearth and highlight the local history of the village and investigate ways of interpreting this through the creation of a history trail. Locals offered the following points:
• The first seminary was hosted in Clady
• Urney was a site of a famous historic battle
• St. Eunan came from Clady
• There used to be a chocolate factory in Clady called Urney Chocolate factory
• There used to be horse races held locally called the “Carricklee Races”
• There was a link between Clady and Raphoe with the St. Patrick’s Trail
• There were once several mills in Clady
The group felt that if some of these historical events could be incorporated into the HEART 2 programme this would improve the community education and the village would then be able to host cultural events and children’s events.
The HEART Project Manager told the group, that as Clady had not been involved in the previous HEART programme it was her intention to devote additional resources to Clady to bring it in line with the other towns. This would involve assisting with a door to door survey, carried out by the local Community Association and meeting with them to draw up an action plan, forming a sub-group to discuss and research the area’s local history, liaising with DRD Roads section on issues of local concern and working with the local community to re-brand Clady as a picturesque village with a rich history and vibrant community life.
The EDM noted that, since the report had been distributed to Members, there had been some changes to the dates of the remainder of the meetings were as follows:
12 May at 11.00 am and 14 May at 7.00pm.
19 May at 11.00am and 28 May at 7.00 pm.
27 May at 11.00am and 1 June at 7.00 pm.
Some Members noted that they had been lobbied by residents and community representatives from the Douglas Bridge, Ardstraw and Victoria Bridge areas about potential opportunities for their villages. It was noted that the 3 villages worked together and had active community representation.
It was agreed that contact would be made with community representatives from the above areas and also Ballymagorry.
In response to Councillor Hussey, the EDM noted that the revisit to Castlederg would be notified and it was hoped to be held in June.
The CE noted that funding for this programme was not open yet and the meetings were preparatory work.
A report from the Strabane 2000 Project Officer (PO) had been distributed for Members’ attention.
Environmental Improvement Scheme
The PO had reported that additional works to relieve ponding at the Northern Bank and on the pedestrian walkway at Post Office Lane had been requested. She added that the remainder of the smooth bands of paving would be bush hammered at £12,396.00. This amount would also be subject to the contractor’s mark up, which may be 10%.
She advised that the replacement of the decorative light in the Main Street had also been requested, the cost of which was covered by insurance. She reported that Scott Wilson proposed to charge for their additional input and supervision but no costs had been received at this stage. She added that the 2 poles outside the Northern Bank, to which the project sign was fitted, were to be removed and the paving reinstated.
Strabane Bridge Project
The PO had reported that planning approval had now been given for the Melvin Bridge. Roughan & O’Donovan would be submitting final drawings for the Town Centre Bridge that week.
A meeting had been held with the bridge team from Roads Service and all issues raised had been dealt with by Roughan & O’Donovan and it was expected that the Approval in Principle would be received shortly. This would complete all information that DSD required for the economic appraisal.
For the bridge to commence this year Roughan & O’Donovan needed to get started on the detailed design in June, therefore the Strabane 2000 Board had recommended that if no funding was secured from DSD by the end of May then the Minister would be contacted.
In response to Councillor McNulty, the CE said that a letter was awaited from Roads Service which was the only outstanding issue.
Masterplan for Strabane Town Centre
The PO had reported that Tribal Consultants had met with Strabane 2000 on 22 April and a visioning workshop had been held on 30 April 2009 in the Council offices. A roadshow with the schools would take place on 22 and 23 June and the public consultation would be held in the Strabane library on 24 June 2009.
Councillor Breslin noted that the last update/workshop was held during the day but some Members were unable to attend events during the day. He felt that updates should either be provided at evening events or relevant details provided on discs.
Councillor McNulty said that he would encourage anyone who had an interest in proposals for the town centre to attend and participate in the public consultation. He felt that the consultation should be well advertised through the local media.
History of the River Mourne
The PO had reported that it was hoped that the final draft booklet would be provided to her within the following week.
Town Centre Living Initiative Area (TCLIA)
The PO had indicated that there was no further update with regard to Strabane but that a total of 4 preliminary applications had been made in Newtownstewart.
The PO had reported that Sustrans had held a Connect2 Conference in Omagh District Council on 21 April 2009 to update progress on the 6 schemes within Northern Ireland. One of the themes was on how to mark Connect2 day which was on or near 4 July 2009. The Strabane 2000 Board had recommended combining the event with the Fair Day.
Strabane 2000 Bank Account
The PO had reported that a letter had been sent to the Ulster Bank expressing the Board’s grave disapproval that the bank had decided to close an account without verification and authorisation from the account holder. As yet no contact had been received from the bank.
The PO had reported that a representative from Travelwise had confirmed that he would be happy to make a presentation to the Strabane 2000 board at its next meeting to be held on 9 June 2009.
On the proposal of Councillor McMenamin, seconded by Councillor O’Kane, it was agreed to open the following tenders:
• Sponsorship of Floral Beds
• Sale of Surplus Vehicles and Plant
On the proposal of Councillor Boyle, seconded by Councillor McMenamin, it was agreed that the meeting go ‘into committee’.
The meeting concluded at 9.10p.m.