Environment Minister Mark H Durkan was in Derry’s Playhouse yesterday to take part in a UNESCO conference he organised.
As part of the event he signed a Prosperity Agreement with the city’s Inner City Trust.
Talking about the agreement he said, “We have to make sure our built heritage is preserved and how it can be promoted. The Inner City Trust have shown, very well, how that can be done.
“Built heritage generates £532 million a year, however we do not exploit our heritage nearly enough. Scotland for example, creates three times the income and twice the number of jobs we do from it.
“We have a wonderful man-made resource and we have to look at how we can maximise their potential. It’s about bringing buildings back to life, having modern functions in a way which doesn’t compromise the integrity of the built fabric.”
The Minister was also certain that other councils could learn from Derry’s positive approach to its built heritage.
“I was keen to start in Derry, definitely, and it was not difficult to do, given how active the Inner City Trust have been here.
“This agreement is about sitting down and looking beyond compliance.
“With the new functions the new 11 councils have around planning and local economic development, there are tremendous opportunities for councils, and some of those will be keen to come here and see the work that has been done here in Derry.”
The Prosperity Agreement is one of a number of such agreements by DOE to work with partners to improve the environment. This is the first dedicated agreement focused upon the historic environment.
As part of the conference the Minister also launched the Second Edition of the Conservation Plan for the City Walls which sets out agreed policies to manage the development of the Monument.
“This second plan acknowledges buildings around the Walls, and is about bringing them into the Walls.
“The Walls are a tremendous attraction, people come from all over the world to walk around them; but it’s how we maximise that, by using it as a link and drawing them into other buildings and attractions.”
In welcoming the announcements, Helen Quigley, managing director of the Inner City Trust said, “Taken together, these announcements by Minister Durkan are a boost for the city, they will help cement a good practice approach to how we manage our historic environment and work together to realise its full potential. I am particularly excited by the opportunities which our prosperity agreement with the Department will open up.”
The conference continued throughout the morning with a variety of speakers taking part.
It is hoped the conference will illustrate the potential of adopting international best practice as well as encouraging councils and communities to use community planning and local planning powers, to grasp this potential.