Consultant to lead £45m Derry riverfront project to be appointed once City Deal signed-off

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A senior civil servant at the Department of Infrastructure (DfI) says a framework consultant is likely to be appointed for Derry’s £45 million riverfront project once the City Deal is signed-off later this year.

Jonathan Saulters, director of major projects at DfI, said a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Department and Derry City & Strabane District Council will then be drawn up and an integrated delivery team assembled to develop the project.

Mr. Saulters briefed members of the Stormont Infrastructure Committee on DC&SDC and DfI’s plans to reimagine public space in Derry city centre at Queen's Quay, Guildhall Square, Foyle Street and the Harbour Square roundabout.

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"To facilitate that, a reshaping of the public road space is proposed, and, potentially, a one-way gyratory system will be put in place along the riverfront and Strand Road.

A computer-generated image of how Harbour Square might look under the new proposals.A computer-generated image of how Harbour Square might look under the new proposals.
A computer-generated image of how Harbour Square might look under the new proposals.

“The proposal includes the provision of tree-lined avenues, new pedestrian and cycle routes, public transport improvements, pedestrian squares and meeting points.

“The programme Outline Business Case (OBC) is being drafted, and the council has advised that it will be ready for issue to DFI economists for review. The council anticipates a financial deal later in the year.

“That will secure the necessary funding for us to appoint a framework consultant to further develop the project and move it through to design.

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“The next step is to develop a MOU between the council and DfI and to agree an integrated delivery team to undertake the detailed design plan, application, environmental reports etc,” Mr. Saulters advised.

The committee was advised that the various City Deals across the North are at different stages of development.

"Derry City and Strabane District Council plans to sign its deal later this year,” said Mr. Saulters.

He added: “On funding and business cases, infrastructure projects are being funded largely by a combination of Executive funding and inclusive future funding.

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"Inclusive future funding is mainly for the Derry riverfront scheme in the Derry deal. Due to shortfalls in the funding available, the Department has agreed to provide additional resource from its budget allocation. Funding from other sources may also be sought.”

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Foyle MLA Mark H. Durkan asked about ‘rising costs and increasing budgetary constraints’ for all the City Deal programmes across the North.

"The walls of Derry could be papered with strategies and plans that have not come to fruition. The Chair [DUP MLA Deborah Erskine] made the point about people's expectations being raised.

"I am sure that officials' expectations were high as well when the process was entered. At what point do you step back and say, ‘No, we can only do so much, and this is what we are going to do’? I understand that the Minister has to make that call, but someone has to present him with that,” he said.

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Mr. Saulters replied: “The difficulty that City Deals are experiencing is the increased costs in the construction industry and across the world. That was not expected when the estimates were done on these schemes.

"We are reviewing the estimates now in light of that, and this is where the shortfalls in funding are coming from. That is a difficulty that we are facing and all Departments are facing, not just Infrastructure.”

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