‘Ilex was limited by departmental constraints’- Durkan

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Foyle MP Mark Durkan has said Derry’s urban regeneration body, ILEX, was severely limited by departmental constraints and controls when it came to delivering for the city.

Mr. Durkan was commenting today as the company was officially wound up after 13 years in existence.

“While others seek to point the finger of failure at Ilex I would ask them to remember the fault of political and departmental choices around the working model for Ilex, with so many departmental constraints and controls to limit its capacity and stunt its drive.”

He specificially referenced the controversial car park spend at the Ebrington site which ILEX came in for severe criticism over.

“It is a travesty, for instance, that Ilex has been misrepresented with the accusation of a sizeable underspend on the car park at Ebrington,” said Mr. Durkan.

“The fact is that OFMDFM asked Ilex to take money that was underspent in Maze / Long Kesh in one budget year to add it to its spending on the car park in that year, with the proviso that the same sum earmarked in Ilex’s budget for the following year would be returned to the centre.

“I also note a lot of commentary now about Ilex’s ‘mission creep’ from people who in the past have rejected my concerns that Ilex should be enabled to concentrate more on its core business of the strategic riverside sites so that it could serve more like a Derry version of Laganside.

“But we should also acknowledge that some of that so-called mission creep involved Ilex trying to make good other delivery gaps. This included its pathfinding role in pursuing City of Culture opportunity when others were giving mixed signals.

“It also involved Ilex’s key role in coordinating and compiling Derry’s bids to the Integrated Development Fund. That fund, which was open to the North as a whole, was set up by the then Direct Rule Minister in response to our calls after significant closures in the textile industry here.”

The Foyle MP defended Ilex on a number of other fronts and said the onus would now be on local authorities to address the gap left by the closure of the urban regeneration company.

He added: “As well as delivering some recent occupancy to give vibrancy to the Ebrington site, Ilex have other prospects lined up – so we should look forward to more emerging from the pipeline of its work.

“Now that Ilex has closed, what we will want to see now is certainty around the future governance of the sites and their transition to Council.

“We will also need to consider best future models for developing these sites and channeling their future dividends.

“Once again, I make the point that a City Deal would provide a positive context for utilising the value of the sites as well as optimising their potential in economic, civic and cultural terms.”