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15th November 2004
Minutes of Economic Development Committee Meeting held on Monday 15th November 2004 at 7.30 pm in the Council Chamber, District Council Offices, 47 Derry Road, Strabane.
Present: In the Chair: Councillor E McMenamin
Other Members: Councillors: I Barr, A Bresland,
J Donnell, J Emery, D Hussey, T McBride, C McGill, C McHugh, B McMahon, B McNamee, J McNulty
Total = 12
In Attendance: Clerk & Chief Executive, Economic Development Officer, Administrative Assistant
Apologies: Councillors: A Bell, E McGarvey, T Kerrigan
The Chairman welcomed Members to the meeting and invited the Economic Development Officer (EDO) to make her report.
Economic Development Officer’s Report
Ministerial Visit and Northbrook Announcement
The EDO advised Members that the Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Investment, Mr. Barry Gardiner, had met with representatives of the Strabane Employment Task Force and Council on 20th October 2004.
She added that following the meeting, Invest NI had staged an announcement of Northbrook Technology’s expansion in Strabane, L’Derry and Belfast and a minimum of 240 jobs for the North West. She said the Managing Director was pleased with the current workforce and would continue recruiting software and technology jobs in Strabane.
Sion Mills Buildings Preservation Trust
The EDO updated Members on the Sion Mills Buildings Preservation Trust (SMBPT) visit by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Directors. She said they had informed the directors of their proposal to secure funding for their project.
Strabane Employment Task Force
The EDO informed Members that a meeting of the Strabane Employment Task Force had taken place on 22nd October 2004 and had discussed the problems associated with the construction industry and the future of training and apprenticeships for Strabane. She noted that prior to the meeting, a workshop was held on this theme with trainers, employers and the Department of Employment and Learning (DEL).
She said the next meeting would be convened on 16th December 2004 and that all Members would be invited to attend.
Go For It Re-launch
The EDO advised Members that Invest NI had hosted a re-launch of the Go for It Start a Business Programme in the King’s Hall, Belfast on 9th November 2004. She noted that the previous programme of advertising was a pilot scheme which had increased interest in new business starts by 300%.
She added that a Steering Committee meeting of the programme would be held on 25th November 2004 to further explore the commitment of all Councils to the next 18 months funding.
Cresco Equal Application – 2nd Round “The Key”
The EDO advised that Cresco were successful in obtaining the second round of funding for the Equal programme and could now build on the good work of the first round of Equal entitled Accord. This programme would again be available to Strabane District Council and Derry City Council.
Workspace Call for Application
The EDO informed Members that she had talked with groups requesting to meet her regarding the forthcoming round of economic development call. She hoped to be in a position to write to all community groups in the following week and advertise in the local papers for a ‘call for Expressions of Interest’.
The EDO advised that the Project Officer, (PO) Heather Torrens had prepared a brief report on Strabane 2000, which had been previously circulated to Members.
Development of Cattle Market Site
The PO advised Members that Sean McGuinness of Heron Bros had confirmed that the planning application for the commercial offices would be soon submitted to the Planning Service.
She added that Tim Traill of Smyth’s Mill had received a draft planning application, which would be submitted to the Planning Service in the near future. Supporting documentation had also been received from BTW Shiells.
John Wesley Street/Castle Street Linkage
The PO noted that Cleaver Fulton Rankin, solicitors for the Post Office, had requested the Department of Finance and Personnel’s solicitors to provide clarification in relation to payment of fees and accommodation works. She anticipated that once these queries had been dealt with, the tenders would be issued.
Town Centre Re-Invigoration
The PO advised Members that she and the Chief Technical Services Officer (CTSO) had met with Patricia Gilbert of Ferguson McIlveen to identify locations within the town centre for the placing of street furniture and signage. She noted that the Technical Services Department were currently producing a detailed drawing to highlight the locations and furniture.
She pointed out that Ferguson McIlveen had prepared the tender documents and approval was required from Department for Social Development (DSD) before they could be issued.
She added that the proposed programme timetable had been delayed as the Post Office had not signed a Permission to Enter Form. This was currently being dealt with by the Department and Post Office’s solicitors.
Shop Front Improvement Scheme
The PO advised Members that the remaining six shop front improvements had commenced in October 2004. She anticipated that five of these would be completed by the end of November 2004 with the remaining one to be finished by the end of December 2004.
In response to a question from Councillor McNulty, the EDO reported that this was a pilot scheme and the closing date for applications had passed.
Bus Shelter at Strabane Community Library
The PO advised Members that the bus shelter had now been erected at the library.
She noted that the Strabane 2000 members had expressed concern in relation to the small size of the shelter. A letter had been sent to Translink requesting that a larger shelter be erected in order to accommodate the number of people using the bus stop.
She added that the CTSO had received agreement from Clearchannel and Roads Service to double the existing shelter in size, however, this would be on a temporary basis until the Kilkenny limestone paving was completed in this area.
The PO informed Members that Strabane 2000 had held a successful brainstorming event on 27th October 2004 in the Council Offices to discuss progress to date and the way forward.
She advised that Peter Hunter gave a presentation on “Looking Back – Looking Forward”, which was followed by constructive interactive discussion on the various areas within the Strabane 2000 Strategy Plan and other issues. She added that Mark Conway of Venture, facilitated this event and a copy of his report would be circulated to all Councillors when it was received.
The PO advised Members that the pedestrian bridges were discussed in great detail at the brainstorming event and it was agreed that a competition for their design should proceed which included a payment to each shortlisted tenderer to a maximum of five for £2000 towards the costs of producing the preliminary design provided that designs of a satisfactory standard were submitted. She requested approval from Council towards the cost of progressing the bridge competition.
The Committee agreed a payment to each short listed tenderer in the region of £2000 towards the cost of producing the preliminary design.
Disrepair of Buildings
The PO noted that there had been no response to the letters sent to the Chamber of Commerce and some property owners in relation to the disrepair of buildings within the town centre.
On Street Drinking, Vandalism and Verbal Abuse from Youths within the Town Centre
The PO advised Members that the following question was tabled at the District Policing Partnership (DPP) Meeting on 27th October 2004 in Killen Community Centre, Castlederg:
“At a recent meeting of Strabane 2000 the members expressed concern about the amount of street drinking, vandalism and verbal abuse from youths within the town centre and along the Waterwall. Could you please raise these issues at your next meeting of the DPP as these problems reflect badly on the town?”
She noted that the issue of street drinking continued to be a cause for concern for local police. She added that recently new signage had been erected to enforce the legislation in the area of the Waterwall.
She said that the police had made referrals for prosecution to Strabane District Council but that difficulties arose when the Council did not proceed with the prosecutions of those identified. However a new system had recently been put in place and police had been assured that prosecution would be considered in every case.
She noted that incidents of criminal damage in Strabane town centre accounted for 37.9% of all such crimes throughout the District but it was difficult to quantify what percentage referred to vandalism in the town centre specifically. She added that police had been proactive regarding the behaviour of persons in the town centre, and a total of 41 arrests had been made for public order offences in the first six months of the year.
Councillor Barr raised concerns with the statement that Council did not prosecute on street drinking offenders and said this information was inaccurate. He pointed out that Strabane District Council had the highest number of prosecutions of any other Council in the North. He outlined the procedure that had been agreed for offenders and was of the opinion the PSNI were aware of this.
The CE referred Members to the statement and said that from November 2003 there had been no amendments to the policy. He said the Licensing Officer would be providing an update at the next Strabane 2000 meeting.
The Chairman appreciated Councillor Barr’s comment and said that the Licensing Officer would provide a logical explanation to the situation.
In response to a question from Councillor McHugh, the Chairman advised that the question had been given in written form at the DPP meeting.
In response to a query from Councillor Bresland, the Chairman clarified the number of referrals, offenders who obtained warnings and prosecutions.
In response to a query from Councillor McBride, the CE confirmed that the new signage had been erected to enforce the legislation in the area of the Waterwall.
Councillor Barr advised Members of a recent incident where the PSNI were contacted with reports of smoke emanating from under the bridge near the Waterwall area. He noted that the Rivers Agency raised concern in the past and said that the gate had also been broken.
Strabane 2000 Annual Review 2004
The PO in her report advised Members that the launch of the Strabane Annual Review for 2004 had been arranged for 28th January 2005 in the Council Offices. She noted that the guest speaker would be Mr Rick Reinhard, Chief Executive of ILEX and invited all Councillors to attend.
She requested approval from Council for the following:
Design and Printing of Review:
She noted that quotations were sought to publish 15,000 copies (to be distributed throughout the Strabane District) of the review document at a cost of:
She noted that quotations were also sought from other agencies, however they were not in a position to submit a quote for the above.
The Committee agreed the costs of design and printing of the review at a cost of £2285.00 from Mitchell~Kane~Associates and an additional estimated cost of £890.00 for the mail shot.
Councillor Donnell thanked the EDO for forwarding a letter to the Planning Office regarding Tyrone Springs (Riddle Bros.) planning application. The EDO advised that Riddle Bros. were involved in the Paradigm Product Development programme, administered by Innovation West and funded by Strabane District Council’s Economic Development budget.
In response to a question from Councillor Donnell, the EDO advised that she was unsure if anything else could be done to assist the company.
Presentation on Innovation West
The EDO advised Members that the Innovation West programme was well under way with three out of the five projects being completed and the remaining two due to be completed by March 2005. She informed Members that each of the 5 Councils were managing one of the programmes.
She informed Members of the Innovation Management Programme which Paradigm Product Development was delivering. She said this aimed to help companies introduce innovation into their business through various concepts. She noted that Tyrone Springs, Donemana and Touchwood, Plumbridge were the 2 companies involved from the District. She informed Members that the programme was ongoing and had taken 8 months to commence as it had been difficult to engage companies in the initiative at first.
In relation to the Knowledge Transfer Programme, the EDO advised Members that this was being delivered by Management Technology Partnership. She said this programme attempted to increase the level of knowledge within local industry through expertise and resources. She noted that JeGila Design and Simpro Ireland were the 2 companies involved in the programme from Strabane District which was now completed.
The EDO informed Members that GG Training Enterprises were delivering the Information Society Programme, which aimed to encourage the use of ICT and technology to help businesses become more efficient. She noted that approximately 10 companies had availed of the programme and it was anticipated that more would be recruited.
She advised that Sentinus & Centre for Competitiveness delivered the Young Foresight Programme, which aimed to develop year 9 school pupils to anticipate future design trends by concentrating on a design only project. She said that Castlederg High School had availed of the programme and 71 students had participated. She advised that 2 out of the 5 schools had exhibited their project at the NI Unlimited Conference in June 2004. She felt that the pupils should be invited to deliver their presentation to Members at some stage.
With regard to the School’s Ambassador Programme she advised that the Business Education Partnership had delivered this project. She said the aim of this programme was to make year 9 pupils aware of career options and provide an insight into working life. She noted that 100 pupils had participated throughout the District and outlined the schools and companies that were involved in the programme.
The EDO outlined the costs incurred by Innovation West for each programme and noted that the Information Society and Evaluation Programme would be complete by March 2005.
Councillor McGill made reference to the £40,000 that had been allocated for the programme and requested clarification regarding this figure. The EDO reported that as the Innovation West meeting was scheduled for 22nd November 2004 she would investigate this and report back at the next meeting.
Councillor McGill requested clarification on the programme objectives for the Innovation Management Programme. The EDO clarified that if a company had developed an effective initiative, Paradigm Development would help to develop the idea. Councillor McGill felt this text should have been simplified.
In response to a question from Councillor McGill, the EDO replied that a target of 80% had been set for the programme. She said information would be gathered from the evaluation sheets to determine if the programme had achieved its target.
In response to a question from Councillor Barr, the EDO said that the 5 Councils and Invest NI were implementing the programme as Innovation West did not have administration services. She pointed out that Dungannon & South Tyrone Borough Council were responsible for the funding management and that Strabane District Council would be invoiced proportionately.
The EDO advised Members that a draft collaboration paper recommended support for the initiative in principle, nomination of 2 elected Members as part of a joint strategy development team and allocation of £1,000 funding plus a contribution from Invest NI. She said this funding would enable the development of the strategy and operational plan for further consideration by each of the Councils and Invest NI.
Following a brief discussion it was agreed that the nomination of 2 elected Members to form part of the joint strategy development team be made at the next Economic Development Committee Meeting.
The Committee agreed the allocation of £1,000 funding for the strategy and operation plan.
Any other Business
Strabane Enterprise Agency
Councillor Barr advised Members that Strabane Enterprise Agency had launched the extension of their development and enquired if the Chairman of the Economic Development Committee or the Chairman of Council had been invited to attend. He made reference to the relationship Council had with the agency and queried why there was no representation from Council.
On the proposal of Councillor Barr, seconded by the Chairman, it was agreed that a letter be forwarded to Strabane Enterprise Agency asking them to clarify why an invitation had not been extended to a representative from Council.
New Deal/Work Track Programme
Councillor Barr referred to proposed changes and possible termination of the above programmes in the New Year.
The EDO advised Members that she had obtained a copy of the press release which confirmed that employers availing of the Work Track programme had been advised to reduce the recruitment of employees on to the programme. She advised Members that Mr Pearson’s draft priorities and budgets document was out for consultation and stated that if this was adopted the Work Track programme would cease in April 2005. She noted that as Work Track was a 26 week programme the employers had been advised to cease recruitment as the programme would no longer exist.
The Chairman suggested that a letter be forwarded to determine why this had occurred. The EDO advised that letters had been sent to providers advising them of the situation. The Chairman said that political parties were making a representation.
Councillor Barr enquired if a meeting could also be arranged.
In response to a question from Councillor McNamee, the EDO reported that she was unsure how many businesses had availed of the Work Track programme but would investigate this. Councillor McNulty felt this would be a substantial number. He said that the Work Track programme was aimed to help single parents and said that it was of great benefit to them.
The Chairman requested that approximate figures for the District be obtained before a letter was forwarded outlining Council’s concern.
Councillor Barr questioned where funding would be relocated if the Work Track programme no longer existed. The EDO advised that she would obtain the document and felt that a response from Council should be given.
In response to a question from Councillor McNamee, the EDO advised that the closing date for the consultation process was mid December 2004.
The EDO confirmed that she would obtain the number of employees and businesses currently operating under the Work Track programme.
On the proposal of Councillor Hussey, seconded by the Chairman, the meeting went into committee.
On the proposal of Councillor Hussey, seconded by the Chairman the meeting went out of committee.
Councillor McHugh felt that consideration should have been given to the time of the meeting, which was scheduled prior to the Corporate and Regulatory Services (CARS) meeting on 16th November 2004. He said the CARS meeting may be delayed and felt the Estimates meeting should have been facilitated on a different evening.
Christmas Illuminations Programme
The CE advised Members that the Community Relations Department had requested approval to re-profile the Christmas Illuminations budget allowance of £33,000 to facilitate small towns/villages with a Christmas tree and street lighting. He said that it was proposed that £720 be allocated towards the provision of metal trees in Newtownstewart, Sion Mills, Castlederg and Strabane. He added that eight artificial trees had been commissioned for the District, which were offered to groups on a first come first served basis. He said it was anticipated that the remaining nine groups would avail of the scheme next year.
Councillor Hussey advised Members that meetings had been held regarding the provision of the metal trees and noted that traders were in favour of this initiative. He said he had not attended any meetings but had been made aware of this. He complimented the tree at Sion Mills and felt this was a positive move.
The Chairman said that this was an environmentally friendly initiative and would save finance in the long term.
Councillor McHugh felt that the issue should have been discussed prior to a decision being made.
The Committee agreed to the re-profiling of the Christmas Illuminations budget.
The CE requested permission from Members to issue another call for applications for Community Economic Development Grant Aid.
This was agreed.
In response to a question from Councillor McNulty, the EDO replied that a letter would be send to all community groups in the District.
Meeting ended at 8.45 pm