Investing for you today

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Strategic Investment Board advisor Martin Spollen updates agendaNi on the Investment Strategy’s progress so far.

The Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland 2008-2018 (ISNI) is the largest programme of investment in our public infrastructure and reflect the urgent priority that the Executive places on tackling the legacy of under-investment inherited from past administrations. Modern infrastructure is essential to our future success – it supports the economy, helps to promote equality of opportunity for all and improves the public services we all depend on.

As you read this, work is progressing on many sites across the region. The vast majority is being delivered by local contractors and suppliers, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), who combine a commitment to quality, timely delivery and excellent value for money.

Experience gained at home is increasingly being used to help win work beyond our shores – growing our local businesses into an internationally competitive force. New contract arrangements are now in place to ensure that young people have the opportunity to secure vital skills needed to succeed in the workplace and improve their future prospects.

As well as providing the foundation of a dynamic and growing economy this investment will secure an estimated 28,000 jobs in the construction and related industries at a very difficult time for the economy. Put simply, infrastructure contracts currently underpin 40 per cent of the construction industry here.

Health

The Executive is delivering high quality health services in state of the art facilities closer to where you work and live. Its programme of investment is helping to improve the health of our people. The new £64 million enhanced Downe Hospital has opened. Covering 18,000 square metres, the new hospital is almost three times larger than the old one, it will be staffed by 383 healthcare professionals serving a local population of almost 70,000.

Construction has started on a new £270 million acute hospital in the South West near Enniskillen serving a population of nearly 293,000. The hospital will provide new levels of patient privacy and dignity with 100 per cent single rooms with en-suite facilities. The project will create more than 200 new jobs, including more than 30 trade apprenticeships and sustain an additional 650 jobs.

Five new health and care centres will open by 2011 in Andersonstown, Castlereagh, Shankill, Grove (Shore Road) and Portadown bringing high level care to local communities.

Transport

Excellent progress has been made this year on our roads and public transport infrastructure. Getting you to where you need to be more quickly by reducing congestion and improving journey times.

The completion of the £137 million M1- Westlink ahead of schedule has improved average journey times by 30 per cent during rush hour. A number of other schemes are underway including the £6 million A26 (Ballee Road East), the A29 (Carland Bridge) and the Dungannon to Ballygawley dual carriage which will considerably reduce journey times between Dungannon and Omagh.

Over the next nine years the Executive has allocated £3.1 billion to improve our roads. Public transport has also been boosted with 20 new Class 4000 trains to be introduced to passenger service by the end of 2011. These new trains are more comfortable and more reliable and will help reduce our reliance on the car.

Education

The Executive is committed to delivering the first class educational facilities that our young people need. It is our aim to ensure that every child is taught in a new or substantially refurbished school.

Pupils and teachers at Orangefield Primary School and Ashfield Girls High School have moved into their new premises, the first two of seven controlled schools in Belfast to be transformed.

As part of a £45.5 million project construction has also started on four maintained schools serving 2,265 pupils in Portglenone, Carryduff, Knock and Downpatrick. Work has begun on a new campus for the Belfast Metropolitan Collage creating 400 new construction jobs. The new state of the art campus in the heart of the Titanic Quarter will facilitate over 2,000 students.

There has been £45 million invested in a new library at Queen’s University as part of a £300 million redevelopment aimed at making the university one of the UK’s leading research centres.

Environment

Protecting and enhancing our environment for current and future generations is a priority that cannot be ignored. Eight wind farm planning applications were approved between March 2008 and March 2009 with a further 50 applications currently under consideration.

By 2012 the Executive will have far exceeded its target of providing 12 per cent of energy consumption from renewable sources. Northern Ireland Water is continuing to invest in new or upgraded water and wastewater infrastructure and will have replaced over 900 km of water mains this year, roughly the equivalent of Belfast to Paris.

Business

Over the last 12 months the Executive has made it a priority to support local businesses through the global economic downturn. Invest NI made almost 2,600 offers of support to its clients, amounting to over £150 million of financial assistance.

Invest NI funding could potentially see a return of almost £1.2 billion from locally and externally-owned companies that plan to invest here creating nearly 6,500 new jobs and safeguard over 800 existing jobs. The Executive is investing heavily in our tourism industry.

Planning permission has been approved for a new Giant’s Causeway Visitors’ Centre and work has commenced on a Titanic-themed visitor attraction. These two sites alone could potentially attract over 1 million visitors. The Executive has substantially supported our rural industries providing over £100 million in grant aid under the Farm Nutrient Management Scheme.

Quality of life

Improving your quality of life and ensuring equality of opportunity are at the heart of the Executive’s Investment Strategy. It has begun the process of upgrading a number of town and city centres to improve the experience for visitors, shoppers and residents. including a £28 million investment to improve Belfast city centre.

More than 1,500 new social homes were built by the end of April 2009 to support those in greatest need and help to secure construction jobs otherwise at risk in the current economic downturn.

Through co-ownership, the Executive has supported 325 first time buyers getting them on that all important first rung of the housing ladder. The £17 million refurbishment of the Ulster Museum opened to the public in October 2009 when visitors saw the dramatic new ‘Hall of Wonders’ for the first time.

Work is well under way at two of our best known theatres. The refurbished Crescent Arts Centre will open in March 2010 and the Lyric Theatre in 2011.

Improving the North West

The Executive is physically, economically and socially regenerating the North West. Construction of a new £14 million footbridge linking the Walled City to Ebrington is about to commence.

A £24 million improvement to the A2 (Maydown to City of Derry Airport) will create greater access to the North West, making the region a more attractive place to visit.

The new £18 million campus at the North West Regional College’s main site will be completed next year and will accommodate 1,000 full-time students. The £8million transformation of Derry city centre will create a high quality public space that will attract people into the city centre and boost local business.

It is anticipated that the redevelopment of Fort George will see 30 per cent of the site built out or under construction by March 2011.

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