Carrickfergus Borough is a place that we love and are proud of. It lies approximately eight miles to the north of Belfast, close to both air and sea links. With a population of approximately 40,000, the Borough consists of three predominant settlements; Whitehead to the north, Greenisland to the south and Carrickfergus town centre occupying the middle ground.
An overview of Carrickfergus’ ambitious plans for developing the local economy.
The key thrust of Carrickfergus Borough Council’s economic activities is to support sustainable economic growth in the Borough and to regenerate the town centre. To this end, the Council has established an Economic Development Section, whose role it is to promote the well being of the Borough through a co-ordinated approach to development. The Economic Development Section is responsible for assisting in the creation of new small businesses, giving development assistance to existing business and promoting the Borough as a thriving business location within Northern Ireland and beyond.
In February of this year, Ministers Sammy Wilson and Danny Kennedy announced that the A2 road widening scheme would go ahead at a cost of £57 million. This followed significant lobbying efforts by Carrickfergus Borough Council to alleviate the misery experienced daily by commuters between Greenisland and Jordanstown. Work is due to commence on the four lane dual carriageway from the University of Ulster at Jordanstown to Seapark in early spring 2013 and is due for completion by summer 2015.
Public Realm Improvements
Carrickfergus Borough Council is currently undergoing an Environmental Improvement scheme for Carrickfergus Town Centre. The scheme which has attracted almost £2.4 million of investment from the Department for Social Development is due to be completed in February 2013. This will improve the quality of life for all residents, visitors and businesses alike whilst basing a framework for development, regeneration and investment.
Following the completion of the public realm works, it is envisaged that further funding will be drawn down from DSD for the Revitalise project. This scheme will enhance the recent investment through shop frontage improvements of both vacant and derelict properties whilst marketing the town to encourage footfall.
Business Support Programmes
Carrickfergus Borough Council has been working in collaboration with other councils to attract funding through the European Regional Development Fund and Invest NI to deliver a series of business support programmes:
Business Improvement through Environmental Solutions
Business Improvement through Environmental Solutions (BITES) is designed to help businesses within the areas of Newtownabbey and Carrickfergus to increase their competitiveness and sustainability through more efficient use of resources (e.g. water, energy and waste). Participation in the programme will promote sustainability and competiveness of local business.
Raising Finance Programme
This programme will seek to provide participating companies with financial awareness skills to enable them to identify and access the options available for raising funds. The project will be led by Antrim Borough Council (participants include Carrickfergus, Coleraine, Ballymena, Larne and Moyle) and will be delivered in three phases;
1. Small Business Owners will be invited to a series of ‘Meet the Investor’ events (one in each of the six participating council areas);
2. A series of six half-day workshops on budget preparation, cash flow projections, understanding basic management accounts, developing proposals for lenders and business planning;
3. Businesses with firm ideas will receive up to three days one to one mentoring provided by expert advisers.
Public Procurement Programme
This project seeks to work with small business owners to make them aware of public sector e-tendering opportunities, to build their capacity in using these modern procurement systems and to encourage them to collaborate with other firms in a way that creates business networks and opens up the possibility of developing supplier chains and clusters.
This programme aims to increase SME business opportunities and profitability through export across the European marketplace and will be open to first time or limited experienced exporters who would benefit from capacity-building prior to testing market opportunities.
Digital North East
This programme has been developed to exploit the digital platform of the council areas of the North East of Ireland. Aims and objectives:
• Recruiting local ‘digital champions’ to promote the digital platform and programme, as well as highlighting/demonstrating the practical opportunities and benefits available through the platform.
• Engaging with local businesses, to communicate the business potential from the digital platform. This will be via seminars, ongoing local information events, local marketing, ongoing support to local businesses, and proactively working to attract business investment.
• Identifying and addressing any local infrastructure issues, for example access options etc. through targeted infrastructure initiatives in participating local authority areas.
Business Boot Camp (funded through Interreg)
The ‘start’ element of the programme will support young people who wish to set up their own business, and the ‘growth’ element will help young entrepreneurs already in business to expand their businesses
Business Improvement Programme (funded through Carrickfergus Borough Council)
This programme provides support to local businesses through a series of workshops and one-to-one mentoring designed to meet the needs of the participating companies. This programme also includes an I-Connect element providing businesses with the opportunity for website design and improvements.
Carrickfergus Regeneration Partnership
The Carrickfergus Masterplan was commissioned by the Department for Social Development and Carrickfergus Borough Council and was officially launched on 7 July 2010. A Regeneration Partnership has subsequently been established to drive forward the Carrickfergus Masterplan and associated projects.
The Carrickfergus Regeneration Partnership consists of six elected representatives, five business representatives and one community representative. The aim of the Partnership is to bring about the appropriate regeneration of Carrickfergus taking a balanced and sustainable approach to improving the wellbeing of all stakeholders.
Carrickfergus Townscape Heritage Initiative
The Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) is a grant-aid programme for the regeneration of the historic environment in towns and cities throughout the UK and is administered by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Carrickfergus Regeneration Partnership is submitting a first round THI application to the HLF will be the heritage-led economic and physical regeneration of the historic town centre by supporting the repair, reuse and regeneration of historic buildings within the Carrickfergus Conservation Area. Subject to HLF approval, the Carrickfergus THI scheme would be five years in duration beginning in autumn 2014 and ending in summer 2019.
The Confucius Institute
Carrickfergus Borough Council has been working in partnership with the Confucius Institute at the University of Ulster (CIUU) to develop links (both cultural and economic) for our local companies and their counterparts in China to help foster trade relations. It is hoped that this partnership will develop over the coming months.
In the current financial year, Carrickfergus Borough Council is investing almost £2.5 million of capital expenditure in its facilities. A new state of the art community centre is being built at Eden and the strategically located Marine Gardens is undergoing a complete redevelopment to provide a recreational space that is truly fit for purpose.
As laid out in the Assembly’s Programme for Government, Carrickfergus Borough Council will cease to exist come 2015 when it merges with Ballymena and Larne to make up the new Mid and East Antrim Council as a result of RPA. Carrickfergus’ current Mayor, Alderman Billy Ashe, is the Transition Committee Chairman and he welcomes the merger: “Our three merging councils look forward to the creation of the new Mid and East Antrim Council, and as Chair, I am pleased to say that we are already working hard together to improve service delivery to our citizens, manage our rate-setting process and deliver efficiencies in these tough economic times.”