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Belfast fury over regeneration devolution U-turn by Northern Ireland Executive

Words: Roger Milne
Stormont | Shutterstock_114096184

Belfast City Council has called for an urgent meeting with the social development minister Mervyn Storey following his announcement of an indefinite delay in the transfer of regeneration powers to local government.

It is the second time there has been a delay – the original transfer was delayed from 1 April 2015 to 1 April 2016 – and the council is concerned that this time it is indefinite, with no clarity on whether the powers will ever be handed to local authorities.

Declan Boyle, chairman of the council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee, said: “We understand there have been some unresolved policy issues in relation to matters at Stormont and that a restructuring of central government departments is now under way.

“We will be seeking an urgent meeting with the minister to ensure that this is not shelved indefinitely, that this decision is urgently reviewed and that a decision to transfer these powers on an agreed date is confirmed.

“We wish to express our disappointment and frustration and seek assurances from the minister in relation to our major investment, development and regeneration plans for Belfast.

“This will impact on our ability to further develop and reinvigorate local neighbourhoods and support investment in the city centre, which will grow our economy, create jobs and prosperity and improve quality of life for our citizens.”

Storey confirmed yesterday (26 November) that the Regeneration Bill was being ditched. He said: “Whilst some good progress has been made on taking the bill forward, a number of fundamental policy issues have been raised which have slowed down the legislative process, making the timetable for putting this legislation into place extremely challenging.”

He added: “I still believe that local councils are best placed to deliver local solutions.”

The powers in the bill included provisions for town and city regeneration, area-based regeneration and support for the voluntary and community sectors at local level. The draft legislation also involved the transfer of Laganside to Belfast City Council. All these powers and responsibilities will now remain with the DSD.