Mid and East Antrim is to benefit from more than £60m of investment following the signing of Northern Ireland’s first City Deal.

The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim headed a delegation from the Borough in attendance along with United Kingdom and Northern Ireland Executive Ministers for the signing at the ICC Belfast on Wednesday morning.

The Belfast Region City Deal unlocks £1bn of transformative co-investment which will deliver more than 20 highly ambitious projects and programmes, create up to 20,000 new and better jobs and help make the region a global investment destination over the next decade.

The Deal will strengthen the region’s offer in growth sectors such as life and health sciences, digital and creative industries and advanced manufacturing. It will also support next generation digital capabilities, boost tourism by creating world-class visitor experiences and enable regeneration, underpinned by infrastructure developments and investment in skills to connect people to jobs and services.

Mid and East Antrim has three major projects under the Belfast Region City Deal programme.

These include the regeneration of Carrickfergus, which will reposition and rebrand the town, placing it firmly on the map as an authentic tourism hub, part of the wider Belfast Story and the ‘must-visit’ starting point to the internationally recognised Causeway Coastal Route.

At The Gobbins, a project to install an ingress structure linking the cliff top path with the coastal path to develop a looped walk, will be delivered. The cliff top path will include a range of exciting features and viewing points to provide a much-enhanced visitor experience, and a new welcome hub will include augmented reality.

Finally, an i4C Innovation & Cleantech Centre will be constructed in Ballymena. The proposed 8,000sqm centre will be based at the St Patrick’s Barracks regeneration site in the town. The centre is scheduled to open in 2026 and will include a range of accommodation types to facilitate innovation activity for SMEs, including an Innovation Lab (iLAB) – the first of its kind in Northern Ireland which is an engineering led, fully-equipped workshop that focuses on commercialisation and skills training activity as well as Grade A and co-working office space.

The first stage in the development of the centre is the pilot Hydrogen Training Academy, which will focus on developing products, services, training and solutions for the cleantech sector and has just received more than £500k of funding from the UK Government.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor William McCaughey, said: “Mid and East Antrim Borough Council is delighted to have secured more than £60m of investment through our partnership with Belfast Region City Deal.

“The opportunities and potential of City Deal are huge for Mid and East Antrim and the entire wider Belfast region, and the financial boost it will provide is more important than ever as we move to level out our economy post-Covid.

“Our area has a proud and longstanding reputation as ‘the engine room’ of the Northern Ireland economy, and a rich heritage in manufacturing, industry, power generation and agri-food, as well as the strategic port of Larne.

“Collaboration is vital to realising our potential and Council is working with key stakeholders from industry, education and government to proactively make the changes necessary and achieve growth in sectors such as Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering, Greentech/Cleantech, Financial and Business Services, Agri-tech and Tourism.

“City Deal will provide immediate benefits to Mid and East Antrim, but we also see it as a catalyst/lever to wider economic growth and investment.

“Our involvement is testament to the ambition, vision and potential of Mid and East Antrim, and a ringing endorsement of our future prosperity plans.

“We want our businesses and citizens to help us deliver our vision for City Deal, which will transform Mid and East Antrim and cement its standing as the ideal place to live, work, invest and visit.

“We will be working closely with our partners in the months and years ahead to deliver this funding in a way that boosts our Borough for everyone.”

Belfast Region City Deal partners have been working intensively since 2017 with the NI Executive, UK Government and industry partners to develop the deal and prepare the case for investment.

Heads of Terms for the Belfast Region City Deal were signed on 26 March 2019, committing the UK Government to investing £350m. This has been matched by the Northern Ireland Executive. And with £150m from Belfast Region City Deal partners and private sector investment, it is anticipated that the total Belfast Region City Deal investment package will exceed £1bn.

For more information on the Belfast Region City Deal, go to midandeastantrim.gov.uk

Updates are posted at #BRCityDeal on social media channels.