The very positive regional collaborative approach by Donegal County Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council in working to achieve the strategic priorities in a number of key critical areas is instrumental in bringing about investment, growth and prosperity to the North West City region, members of the high level North West Strategic Growth Partnership were informed at their bi-annual meeting in Derry yesterday.
The Partnership, which has been endorsed by the Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish Government through the North South Ministerial Council and is made up of senior government officials from all Government departments in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, is the first of its kind on the island of Ireland and is a unique joined-up forum aimed at bringing real and positive change for the North West City Region.
Jointly led by Donegal County Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council and supported by the International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD), the Partnership was given an update on the ongoing collaborative work that is being done by the two Councils to continue to drive forward the economic, environmental and social regeneration and to position the region that will allow it to respond positively to the challenges and opportunities presented post-Brexit.
The delegates were informed by a representative from the Department for Infrastructure that the NI Executive Office has confirmed the release of the sterling equivalent of the €2.5m funding secured under the Fresh Start Agreement to facilitate the work of the Partnership. This funding release complements a similar sum already provided by the Irish Government.. Reference was also made to the recent visit by An Taoiseach to the North West region by a representative of the Taoiseach’s office and the willingness and commitment that exists from the Irish Government to work in partnership with the North West Strategic Growth Partnership to continue to make progress to move forward with regeneration and infrastructural development plans for the region.
Members of the Strategic Growth Partnership were also provided with details of a Joint North West Approach to Spatial Planning and Shared Area Planning by both Councils and a Public Health Agency presentation detailing how they are addressing population health needs through infrastructure and public realm design through their “Our Future Foyle” Initiative.
A presentation entitled Modelling a Regional Economy and the North West City Regional Dashboard project was also provided by Derry City and Strabane District Council, the ICLRD and Maynooth University, followed by a round table discussion with the various Government department officials on possible data sharing opportunities.
Speaking following the meeting, Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council, Cllr Gerry McMonagle spoke highly of the Partnership and the work that is being done on the ground to put the needs and priorities of the North West City Region at the centre of Government discussions.
He commented: “The North West Strategic Growth Partnership provides us with a very unique opportunity to access Government officials at a very senior level to inform them of the excellent work we are doing and to outline the key strategic priority needs for our region including critical transport and infrastructural requirements, industry and the economy as well as the work we can do to build on our strong existing cultural, heritage and tourism assets.”
The Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr Maolíosa McHugh said he was very pleased with the ongoing commitment of the Partnership to working closely with each other to ensure the region’s key priority for growth and development is jointly planned and focused.
“This was a hugely significant meeting that showed by working together we can really maximise the region’s potential to drive real growth. There was a real commitment from all of the members to assist in developing our resilience in a changing environment and working through sustainable engagement to achieve our vision for growth and prosperity,” he said.
Donegal County Council Chief Executive, Seamus Neely praised the commitment of the Partnership members in achieving meaningful progress to develop and regenerate the North West City Region. He said: “There is a real and genuine commitment from those around the table at the Partnership meeting to continue with this positive engagement and to work with us at all levels and on all fronts to make real and meaningful progress towards achieving our strategic goals. They see at first hand the positive cross border connections and strong working relationships that already exist and see the benefits of jointly working across all administrations to achieving growth and prosperity for the region.”
Derry City and Strabane District Council Chief Executive John Kelpie hailed today’s meeting as a huge success and further evidence of the benefits of collaborative working. He said he was delighted with the NI Executive confirmation of the First Start funding saying it would act as a real stimulus for continued joint working across the region.
“The discussions at today’s meeting were extremely positive and engaging and there was a real understanding and commitment from those in attendance that they are committed to working with us to achieve our strategic priorities and bring about real and positive change for the North West City Region. The Partnership heard today at first-hand about the number of strategic planning frameworks that are already in place and how they will help inform our priorities moving forward and confirmation of the funding is welcome news and will go some way towards assisting us in really delivering and achieving economic, environmental and social regeneration in the North West City Region,” he commented.
The Chair and Vice Chair of the North West Regional Development Group, Cllr Albert Doherty and Cllr. Gus Hastings also attended the meeting and acknowledged the work done to date by both Councils and by the members of the partnership in driving growth in the region. They emphasised the long history of cross-border connections and co-operation within this region and are confident that this committed and unique partnership approach will reap real and meaningful benefits for the entire region.