Plans to invest almost £40m to regenerate, reposition and rebrand the town of Carrickfergus are “continuing apace” despite the Coronavirus pandemic, according to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council (MEABC).
Forming part of the Belfast Region City Deal, the project will place the town firmly on the map as an authentic heritage-led tourism hub, part of the wider Belfast Story and the ‘must visit’ starting point to the internationally recognised Causeway Coastal Route.
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis MEABC officers and elected members have continued to progress the development of a comprehensive Outline Business Case (OBC) for the project, intended for submission to the Treasury later this year.
According to Alderman Billy Ashe MBE, the OBC clearly articulates a compelling list of benefits to be derived from the project that will be “truly transformational” for Carrickfergus and the surrounding area.
“This exciting project will include the development of the Castle, Walls and surrounding environment as a world-class heritage site and visitor attraction,” he explained.
“The Castle setting will be further enhanced by high-quality public realm works, facilitating access to the town centre and creating a venue for residents and tourists.
“All of this will bring multiple benefits to Carrickfergus while also contributing greatly to the visitor offer and economy of Northern Ireland.
“Importantly, it will also serve to catalyse private sector investment in the town and surrounding areas, especially those capitalising upon the Causeway Coastal Route.”
The project strategy is built upon investment in the heritage assets of Carrickfergus and its town centre in order to attract more visitors, to encourage them to stay longer and to spend more. It will also see revenue investment to further increase economic benefits, such as helping town centre businesses to capture more visitor spend and to gain employment and training benefits for residents.
Councillor Robin Stewart commented: “This project will realise a wealth of benefits for the residents and businesses of Carrickfergus. As well as making the town more attractive by enhancing its buildings and spaces in a way that complements the restoration of its historic features, it will make it much livelier and engaging for locals and visitors alike.
“It will also ensure that Carrickfergus is a truly safe and inclusive destination that is open to all day and night, regardless of background or ability. By promoting active travel and a healthy lifestyle through an enhanced network of outdoor places and spaces, it will also support and sustain fit and healthy local communities.
“Perhaps most significantly, it will support the town’s long-term economic recovery and growth, making it more prosperous by creating jobs, sustaining local business and opening up opportunities for training and entrepreneurship.”
The extension of the Gobbins cliff path and the regeneration of the former St Patrick’s Barracks site in Ballymena are also proposed to receive funding alongside the regeneration of Carrickfergus site through the Belfast Region City Deal.
The deal sets out a vision to create 20,000 new and better-paid jobs across the region’s growth sectors; pushing the ‘fast-forward’ button on inclusive economic growth and ensuring opportunities are accessible across all of our communities. It will also improve infrastructure, digital connectivity, visitor attractions and innovation hubs; and deliver a major skills and employability programme
For more information about the City Deal, visit: https://www.midandeastantrim.gov.uk/business/economic-development/belfast-region-city-deal