Economy report

Regenerating for empowering economic growth

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council is shaping new, incentivised and collaborative opportunities to power further economic development.

Economic growth is at the heart of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s corporate mission and it has a strong track record for directing resources to drive new urban and rural opportunities, accelerate growth potential and maximise social and wellbeing gains for every citizen.

Recognising the need to invest in regenerating local cities, towns and villages, the Council is coherently investing millions of pounds in a range of targeted initiatives which is already yielding compelling benefits, and which support key growth areas including tourism, leisure, cultural development and the digital and creative economy.

Its commitment to support and directly invest in town centres since its formation in 2015 is impressive, with a series of major urban and rural regeneration projects spearheaded by a dedicated regeneration team either complete or now well under way.

Take Armagh City, for example. Steeped in history, heritage and culture, the Cathedral City is enjoying a new-found renaissance which is attracting thousands of new visitors keen to enjoy its beautiful, Georgian surroundings, food, drink and hospitality.

Given its strategic importance, the Georgian city is currently benefiting from a major infrastructural investment programme with direct support from a range of partners, including the Department for Communities (DfC) and Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), which has seen millions of pounds directed to dramatically improve the city’s public realm and many of its historic buildings as part of the five-year Armagh Townscape Heritage Project.

Initiating groundbreaking plans to sympathetically restore and rejuvenate up to 30 of its oldest, historic buildings as part of a major city transformation project, work will soon start to reinstate the former beauty of 14-16 Upper English Street. When complete, this will integrate two vibrant retail units and four stylish apartments, fitted out in modern, contemporary style but incorporating all the iconic features of their former incarnation.

Encompassing an anticipated potential investment of up to £30 million, the first phase of the project has already seen £6.3 million pledged by the HLF, Council and private investors.

Almost 50 new jobs will be created over the course of the scheme, securing an additional 30 once complete, which will act as a real catalyst for millions of pounds of future investment and growth.

Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Councillor Mealla Campbell, says: “Armagh’s Townscape Heritage Partnership Project puts buildings, beauty and conservation at the heart of the city’s ongoing transformation. With focus, investment and a collective passion to regenerate some of our most beautiful assets, this exciting project will go a long way to help restore much more of the city’s historic character for the benefit of everyone – businesses, residents and visitors.”

Separately, over £150,000 is currently being invested in Armagh City centre to further enhance its public realm by DfC and the Council. This is in addition to an £840,000 initial investment in the Armagh Linkages Programme, which has completed its first phase of enhancements, and the Council’s commitment to retain the sought-after Purple Flag status, which recognises excellence in the management of the evening and night-time economy in the UK and Ireland.

All key towns benefit  

Other top towns are benefiting hugely too, with £430,000 invested by the DfC and the Council in major public realm projects in Portadown, Lurgan, Banbridge, Craigavon and Dromore.

Portadown is also earmarked for further transformation following a series of two recently completed regeneration projects – Portadown Linkages Public Realm Scheme and the RICS award-winning Portadown Pump House refurbishment and extension – both which benefited from a £2.8 million investment by DfC and the Council and which incorporated the Old Town Quay revitalisation, the new People’s Park and the 2011 Public Realm scheme.

In Lurgan, improvements are being made to Church Wall, while in Banbridge, a design team for a major Public Realm Scheme was recently appointed with an earmarked £5.5 million investment to transform its commercial core. This is in addition to a £7 million investment package in Lurgan to help preserve and protect its rich built and cultural heritage.

The Lurgan Townscape Heritage project, which runs until March 2024, is one of  several initiatives aimed at transforming the town centre funded by the Council, HLF, private sector and public sector, which started earlier this year and which supports the restoration of twenty-five historic properties within the town’s Conservation Area over the next five years, helping to protect the area’s past and unique character.

The Council has also provided full support to the development of the new HBO Game of Thrones studio based at Linen Mill Studios in Banbridge, which is the location for a new, international visitor attraction. Creating millions of pounds of new investment and hundreds of new jobs, the project has the potential to attract hundreds of thousands of tourists to this area each year.

The transformed historic Pump House in Portadown provides a new, exciting location for a leading, luxury coffee chain.

This exciting project will go a long way to help restore much more of the city’s historic character for the benefit of everyone – businesses, residents and visitors.

Meanwhile in Dromore, a £1.4 million public regeneration scheme will start next year to enhance the streetscape of the outer Market Square and Bridge Street areas thanks to an investment by DfC, the Council and the Department for Infrastructure. Richhill recently received a £1.5 million injection thanks to HLF and Council funds, which transformed its main square and sympathetically restored around 20 architecturally important buildings, following a similar £1 million injection in Keady.

The Council’s new state-of-the-art £35 million leisure centre in Craigavon, due to open next year, will also dramatically contribute to the ongoing regeneration of the local area. The largest project in the Council’s ambitious capital investment programme and a landmark for the area, it will significantly enhance the borough’s leisure offering and be at the forefront of indoor and outdoor leisure provision in Northern Ireland.

Rural priority

The borough is wide in area and rural communities remain a key focus in its investment plans and focus, particularly though SOAR (Southern Organisation for Action in Rural areas), which provides action, support and funding for local communities and rural businesses.

To date, its Rural Business Investment Scheme has proactively supported 70 projects for local businesses and have committed £2.9 million to date, helping rural businesses to grow and diversify, while creating new jobs. Local communities have also been benefitting through its Rural Basic Services Schemes, with £1.4 million committed for up to 15 new community-based projects.

And earlier this year, over 100 local businesses from right across the borough attended a series of masterclasses to ‘Grow Your Town Centre Business’. These free council-organised events, supported by DfC, offered expert practical guidance and advice on growing sales by creating a great customer experience and implementing a digital marketing strategy.

It doesn’t stop there. Looking forward, in February, the Council will host a major ‘Go to Market’ event at the Belmont Hotel, Banbridge, a key opportunity to further showcase the borough as a major investment location.

For further information:
Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council
T: 0300 0300 900
W: www.armaghbanbridgecraigavon.gov.uk
E: info@armaghbanbridgecraigavon.gov.uk

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