Sport Northern Ireland is currently managing an elite facilities capital programme on behalf of the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. On Wednesday 5 September I announced that 15 of the 27 applications received by Sport Northern Ireland and the initial expression-of-interest competition had been assessed as suitable for progression to stage 2.
Three of the applications relate to the potential development of a velodrome, and the proposed sites include Newcastle, Belfast and Newry. A strategic outline business case is being prepared seeking budget approval for the Elite Facilities Capital Programme, and, subject to approval of the business case, the three velodrome applicants, along with the other twelve, will be given three months to prepare an outline business case for their individual projects. Following assessment of those business cases by Sport Northern Ireland, a recommendation will be made to the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. A further selection process will then take place, and successful applicants from the fifteen will be invited to proceed.
The development of a velodrome, which would be hugely significant for cycling, was identified as a priority in the ISNI bid for the development of elite facilities. With regard to mountain biking and other aspects of cycling, my Department recently wrote to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to open up discussion on the use of its facilities for cycling, because we have some wonderful assets in Northern Ireland for such activity and we would like to make full use of those resources.
I welcome the fact that Belfast is through to the next stage of the competition for the design of the velodrome. The proposal for Belfast is more innovative than the others, because the design is not only for a cycling track but for a multi-purpose facility that can accommodate other sports such as judo, boxing and table tennis. However, the question is: how much money will be available for the Elite Facilities Capital Programme? The site identified in east Belfast would be the most cost effective, as much of the necessary infrastructure is already in place.
I thank the Member for his bid. I am not sure whether he had anything to do with filling in the application form, but I understand that it was well completed, so perhaps he did have something to do with it.
The velodrome will be built in County Down, because the proposed site in Belfast is also on the County Down side of the city. Having said that, we will consider all the applications and they will be judged fairly, on merit and on value for money. Fifty-three million pounds has been set aside in the investment strategy to deliver the velodrome, but that figure is still to be finally negotiated with the Department of Finance and Personnel. Ultimately, the swimming pool will be the first project to receive funding from ISNI, and North Down Borough Council will work up a plan for the delivery of that project. Those decisions will come further down the line.