Dromore: Urban Regeneration

Oral Answers to Questions — Social Development – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:30 pm on 30th September 2002.

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Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 3:30 pm, 30th September 2002

1. asked the Minister for Social Development what assistance he can give to the urban regeneration of Dromore.

(AQO 220/02)

Photo of Nigel Dodds Nigel Dodds Opposition Whip (Commons)

My Department has prepared a strategy for town centre reinvigoration, which forms part of our new strategy for neighbourhood renewal in Northern Ireland. The town centre element has been drawn up after widespread consultation, including comments from district councils and other Government Departments. It will highlight a range of policies and incentives, which together will create the best climate within which regeneration of town centres can be accomplished. The Department for Social Development will offer advice on best practice for reinvigorating town centres and will continue to use existing policy instruments, such as environmental improvement and comprehensive development schemes, as appropriate.

Finally, and importantly, our policy will highlight the need for a unified approach by Government to ensure that all our policies complement each other with regard to promoting town centre reinvigoration. With that aim in mind, this morning I met Mr Nesbitt, the Minister of the Environment, to discuss how we could act jointly to promote regeneration in Dromore.

The Department for Social Development, which takes the lead on regeneration matters, will provide advice and general assistance to Banbridge District Council and to the local established groups in Dromore. The Department will also continue to work with the International Fund for Ireland, as agent for the urban development programme, and with the heritage lottery fund, which has appointed a project officer to run the townscape scheme in Dromore. Those practical measures will go a long way towards ensuring that Dromore is given the best opportunity to develop a town centre of which it can be truly proud.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Does the Minister’s Department recognise the scale of dereliction in Dromore? Will the Minister visit the town to see the dereliction? Can his Department provide financial assistance to the Dromore area, in conjunction with the International Fund for Ireland and the heritage lottery fund, to ensure that the schemes that are being processed by the Dromore regeneration group come to fruition?

Photo of Nigel Dodds Nigel Dodds Opposition Whip (Commons)

I am happy to visit Dromore in my official capacity as Minister. My officials are well aware of the extent of the problems there and of the need to work with the local community, the local council and other interested groups to regenerate the town centre.

It is essential to have a proper plan from which to work. It will be difficult to commit a figure for funding until such a plan is in place. However, when it is formulated, potential sources of funding will be approached, and I shall decide what funding can be made available from the Department’s budget.

As a result of this morning’s meeting, I expect that a senior official will meet a representative of the local council. It is essential that the Department speak to the various interest groups in Dromore to develop a co-ordinated approach, so that the opportunities that will exist when the new town centre reinvigoration policy is published can be grasped.

Photo of Mr Denis Watson Mr Denis Watson UUAP

Will the Minister update the House on the measure for town centre regeneration under Peace II?

Photo of Nigel Dodds Nigel Dodds Opposition Whip (Commons)

Further to my Department undertaking a review of town centre regeneration and reinvigoration policy as part of the neighbourhood renewal strategy, it has also been examining the possibilities of funding town centre regeneration under Peace II. That measure has specific qualification criteria, and the majority of local councils across Northern Ireland have bid for assistance. As only £1·75 million is available, I anticipate that approximately only one third of the applicants will be successful. I hope to be able to announce the successful bids soon.