The local council has confirmed that it expects Stormont to match the UK government’s commitment of £50m in City Deal funding in the coming weeks.
However, negotiations are ongoing with the NI government to secure an additional £55m to match the total UK Government (UKG) package of £105m towards a Derry City and Strabane Region Deal.
With match funding and investment from private partners it was envisaged that the overall package would be in the region of £250m-£300m.
By way of comparison, the Belfast Region City Deal will see the UKG invest £350m into the Belfast Region over the next 15 years. It is proposed that this figure will be matched by the NI Executive.
Bolstered by co-investment of upwards of £150m from Belfast Region City Deal partners and investment by the private sector is anticipated to bring the total Belfast investment package to over £1bn.
Last May it was announced that Derry and Strabane will receive £105m in major new investment from the UKG.
But match funding is necessary to fulfil ambitions laid out by the council in terms of Strabane town centre regeneration, as well as “key tourism, economic, and social projects and initiatives.”
The current package, £50 million for the City Deal and £55m for the new Inclusive Future Fund, aims to boost the economic potential of the city and support a more prosperous and united community.
The Derry City and Strabane City Deal investment will help strengthen innovation and the digital potential of the city region and unlock local partner funding.
It will be bolstered by a £55m Inclusive Future Fund aimed at bringing greater prosperity and social benefits to the whole of the community.
Ulster University will be granted £85m of the £105 already committed. Official council documents suggest it may be given additional funds if it’s included as part of the £40m set aside for Queen’s Quay/Riverfront projects.
UU’s £85m will be invested in centres of innovation and excellence in data analytics (CARL) and robotics and automation (CIDRA), the Graduate Entry Medical School (NIGEMS) and Personalised Medicine Centre of Excellence (THRIVE).
The Derry News asked Derry City & Strabane District Council whether it still has confidence in UU to deliver its projects given recent revelations about its huge overspend on the Belfast campus and a request for a £126m bailout from Stormont.
That is coupled with the fact that a new business case has to be drafted for Magee expansion and a senior official at the Department for the Economy stated that new money would have to be found, adding “it’s hard to see that happening”.
In response, a spokesperson for the council said it is working closely with UU to expand Magee but “continues to explore all avenues” to develop third level education provision in the city.
Significant progress has already been made, she said, and all project proposals have been submitted to government at this stage.
As a result of this “positive work” council is hopeful that Heads of Terms can be signed in the coming weeks and continues to work with government and key partners in this regard.
Much has already been achieved in terms of the scaling and prioritisation of projects, the proposed governance structures and the processes and timelines involved since the initial City Deal funding announcement, she explained.
The spokesperson continued: “In terms of securing the required Northern Ireland government ‘match funding’ of £50m to the UKG £50m City Deal funding, it is assumed this will be finally confirmed at ‘Heads of Terms’ stage.
“Discussions in relation to Northern Ireland Government ‘match funding’ to the UK Government £55m Future Fund element of the funding package are ongoing and we welcome the commitment set out in the New Decade New Approach report that ‘the Executive will make it a priority to realise the economic potential offered by City Deals for the Belfast Region and Derry/Londonderry, including through match capital funding for infrastructure, regeneration and tourism projects’.”
She added: “Since the restoration of devolved government at Stormont local political representatives have also been proactive at Executive level in amplifying the campaign for university expansion here.
“The delivery of the Graduate Entry Medical School for Magee has been highlighted as a key commitment amongst a raft of priority projects set out within the New Deal and Council is confident that this firm commitment to investing in the economic regeneration of the NW will be honoured by both the UK and Irish governments.
“In terms of the delivery of the project, Council continues to explore all avenues with regards to successfully growing and developing third level education provision here in the city.
“Ulster University is working closely with Council and its partners to realise the plans for the further expansion of the Magee campus, including the GEMS.
“Council looks forward to welcoming the incoming Vice Chancellor once in post to hear more about those plans and to continue that work.”
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