Backed by an ambitious economic blueprint for growth, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council has a real appetite to be a major economic player and a beacon for one of the fastest-growing local economies in Northern Ireland.
With an estimated population of 180,012, a coastline of approximately 150km, and encompassing an area of 1,6342km, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council’s strategic location provides an opportunity for business development, local and international investment and promotion of cross-border initiatives, as well as establishing the district as a premier tourism destination.
However, the district has not been untouched by the Covid-19 pandemic and the Council is keen to put in place plans to deal with the economic fallout. Like the rest of Northern Ireland, the future scenario for the economy remains highly uncertain, with forecasters not expecting economic output to recover to 2019 levels until 2022, at the earliest.
Despite this the Council is clear on its mission, on what it wants to achieve, and how it will deliver.
The Council is already working hard to facilitate a thriving business community in key growth sectors to deliver transformative regeneration plans. Core to the achievement of this, is collaboration and partnership working with council’s key stakeholders and agencies.
Through the new Economic Development, Regeneration and Investment Strategy, the Council is actively working to attract investment, stimulate growth, support its vitally-important SMEs, improve access to skills and increase employment opportunities.
A key objective of this strategy is to ensure that the Council leads the way in supporting businesses and residents, through its range of business support programmes and the exploitation of opportunities that digitalisation will bring in areas such as Big Data, Emerging Technologies, Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things.
Aligned and complementary to a need for advice, guidance and support among its business community, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council has a range of business support programmes focusing strongly on providing opportunities for local businesses to fulfil their potential. In direct response to Covid-19, all programmes are providing virtual support including starting, sustaining and growing a business, building a digital business, winning business from ongoing procurement opportunities — and of course planning for recovery. The priority is helping businesses to survive the current situation, but not losing sight of the need to prepare for growth mode again once we’re out the other side of this pandemic.
To achieve this goal, the Council recognises the need to create ultra-modern, future-proofed digital infrastructure. The Council are keen to ensure that businesses and residents across the district have access to the right technologies that will transform how we all communicate, work, carry out business, spend our leisure-time and go about our everyday lives.
As a direct response, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council lead the Full Fibre Northern Ireland (FFNI) consortium of 10 rural councils across Northern Ireland, which has as its main objective to establish across Northern Ireland, a Gigabit speed “full fibre” communications network and state of the art digital infrastructure. The consortium will be a critical enabler to the achievement of this priority across the District.
Building prosperity by developing and investing in regeneration and infrastructure which connects its businesses and its people to markets and employment opportunities is a strategic priority for the Council.
The Council recognises the importance of partnerships, working with both the public and private sectors. Future strategic infrastructure projects involve such partnerships, including the extensive transformation at Warrenpoint Municipal Park, Castlewellan Forest Park, regeneration of Derrymore Demesne, Bessbrook and the redevelopment of the former police station on Irish Street, Downpatrick. There are many more projects in the pipeline, including multi-million-pound environmental improvement schemes across the district, and strategic regeneration plans for both Newry City and Downpatrick town centre, supported through the Department for Communities.
Behind the Council’s regeneration plans is a comprehensive suite of master plans and village plans, informed through community consultation and buy-in, and which set the direction for regeneration investment across the District. Through initiatives such as the Rural Development programme, and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, funded through DAERA, the Council have been instrumental in delivery of revitalisation support to rural businesses and communities.
To deliver the skills and people to power growth, the Council is proud to have two major education campuses in the Southern Regional College (SRC) and the Southern Eastern Regional College (SERC) with both campuses providing world class learning facilities and technology which capitalises on the potential and ambition of home-grown talent.
Belfast region city deal
The economic development, regeneration and investment vision of the Council is further expanded through the Belfast Region City Deal, which has at its core focus the progression of investment that stimulates inclusive economic growth through investment in infrastructure, regeneration, tourism, digital technologies, skills and employability. Given the potential impact of Brexit and in particular on border council areas such as Newry, Mourne and Down, initiatives that position the district as a key investment location are critical. The Council is progressing a number of strategic projects as part of the City Deal, including local infrastructure projects: Newry City Centre regeneration, the Newcastle Gateway to the Mourne tourism initiative, and delivery of the Southern Relief Road which will open up South Down, securing Warrenpoint Harbour as a key transport link. Key to supporting these initiatives are investments in a City Centre located innovation hub, and alignment of skills and employability to the needs and demands of the local business base.
A hub for tourists
In a prime, easy-to-reach location, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, has an unrivalled tourism offering and is driven to maximise its potential. Spanning both parts of County Down and County Armagh, the area is renowned for its scenic beauty and the local authority boasts multiple unique assets.
The economic and tourism potential is enormous with Newry City strategically placed on the A1/M1 Belfast to Dublin corridor, and Downpatrick in close proximity to Belfast. The District has three areas of outstanding natural beauty, located in Strangford Lough and Lecale, Ring of Gullion and the Mourne Mountains, complemented by numerous Blue Flag beaches, and an unrivalled link to St Patrick.
The region is packed with bustling historic towns and charming villages, numerous forests and parklands. Bounded on the East by Strangford Lough and Carlingford Lough, and on the West by Slieve Gullion and Slieve Croob, with the majestic and picturesque Mountains of Mourne at our centre.
Right throughout the region, from Newry to Downpatrick, Warrenpoint, Newcastle, Ballynahinch, Slieve Gullion to Saintfield and beyond, locals and visitors alike can enjoy a variety of cultural, historical, family-friendly and sporting activities.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council area is a unique tapestry of contrasts: ancient, modern, urban, rural, industrial, agricultural, waterways, road and railways – which sets it apart from anywhere else in Northern Ireland.
Critical to this success, is the strengthening and development of new and existing local and strategic alliances, as well as community planning partners and private sector partners.
The area will continue to have its challenges, not least the impending Brexit withdrawal and the economic fallout as a result of Covid-19, with its impact on residents and businesses across the district. Newry, Mourne and Down District Council are ambitious and its soon to be launched, new Economic Development Regeneration and Investment Strategy, tasks it with delivering a broad range of interventions to maximise the potential of the local economy. By continuing to work collaboratively, and through hard work and dedication, the Council will continue to make significant progress on the road to success.
To find out more, contact: Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Enterprise Development Team.