‘There is money in monuments and now is the time to exploit it’ – Durkan

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan.
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan.

Environment Minister and SDLP MLA for Foyle, Mark H Durkan, has published a report following the international built heritage conference which took place in Derry in December.

‘The Back to the Future – New Directions’ conference highlighted the huge potential that exists for district councils, through their community planning powers, to realise major economic and social benefits from the historic environment.

Derry City and Strabane District Council CEO, John Kelpie.

Derry City and Strabane District Council CEO, John Kelpie.

Minister Durkan believes more can be done to maximise the financial return from some of North’s monuments.

“We are blessed here in the North with a wealth of beautiful historic monuments, sites, buildings and shipwrecks. Our historic environment should be cherished and protected but we are not doing enough to maximise its potential to create wealth through boosting the economy and delivering jobs.

“Our historic environment sector already generates £532 million of output per annum and sustains around 10,000 jobs. Whilst this is impressive, if it were performing at an equivalent rate to Scotland, it could be generating £1.5 billion annually and supporting 20,000 jobs which is three times the output and twice as many jobs.

Minister Durkan said he could see no reason why district councils in the North could not make the North of Ireland an even more attactive destination for tourists to come and visit.

“In my view, we should be aspiring to international best practice and for Northern Ireland’s council areas to stand out as a destination worth visiting for their unique heritage. UNESCO has had a long involvement with World Heritage Sites and has published best practice guidance so the talk from the UNESCO speaker at the conference was particularly insightful.”

John Kelpie, Chief Executive of Derry and Strabane District Council who spoke at the conference described the event as “an opportunity to showcase” the work that has gone into the regeneration and development of Derry.

“Derry City and Strabane District Council fully recognise the value of its built heritage in terms of its contribution to the physical and economic fabric of the city and district as well as broader tourism benefits associated with built heritage and conservation management. This conference was an opportunity for us to showcase the work we have done in terms of preserving, protecting and regenerating our city and district through the Walled City Partnership and our ongoing commitment to enhance the management of our heritage assets going forward.”

The Minister concluded: “Whilst this conference brought together key stakeholders, the potential benefits, if seized, could be for everyone. This is why I have published the conference report and urge everyone to go online and have a look.”

The report can be accessed at https://www.doeni.gov.uk/articles/heritage-and-community-planning