2. asked the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment to detail the number of inward investment companies that have visited Knockmore Hill Industrial Estate in each of the past three years; the number who have chosen to establish factories at the site; and the number of jobs which have been created at the estate.
One inward investment company visited Knockmore Hill Industrial Estate in the year ending 31 March 1999. Another visited in the year ending 31 March 2000, with a further three in the year ending 31 March 2001. Two indigenous companies are operating at the park, and they have created 85 jobs.
I am very disappointed that only five companies visited the site. Of the four available sites, this is the only one that has a 30-acre land bank that could incorporate large-scale business development. In view of the Belfast metropolitan area plan, which will bring more housing into the Lagan Valley constituency, and the possibility of further development at the Maze Prison site, can the Minister assure the House that Invest Northern Ireland will give some real impetus to establishing large-scale companies on the Knockmore Hill site and to creating jobs in the Lagan Valley area?
The Member will know that my Department cannot dictate to investors about where they will locate their businesses. Two companies are due to locate in Knockmore Hill Industrial Estate; one factory is nearing completion, and building work has commenced on a second. When they are fully operational, 79 jobs will be created, in addition to those already mentioned.
As regards the Belfast metropolitan area plan and the Maze, there is a wide range of possibilities. It is frustrating for many Members to see vacant sites, but we have been fairly successful in filling vacancies. Some of the advance orders for factories that we had — facilities for which I was criticised and put under pressure to let go to make room for carpet warehouses and such like — have resulted in premises being filled in the last year.
I am confident that the location, nature and quality of the Knockmore Hill site will prove successful in the long run. There is an active work programme, and such things tend to gain their own momentum. The Member and I want further jobs to be brought into the area, and I am satisfied that the people already there and the work under construction will achieve that.
Thank you. How many industrial estates formerly owned by the IDB have been transferred to private ownership? What is their status within Invest Northern Ireland? Who is responsible for ensuring that privately owned estates are kept up to standard? There is a difficulty with the Dublin Road estate in Strabane.
Those people had first refusal on any site anywhere in Northern Ireland. Client companies still have first refusal. With reference to Mr Poots’s question, several people have shown interest in the Knockmore site, but Invest Northern Ireland did not consider their proposals appropriate for a quality site such as that. I shall find the details that the Member requested and write to him. If he wishes to ask me questions on other locations, he will have a future opportunity to do so.
(Madam Deputy Speaker [Ms Morrice] in the Chair)