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New management arrangements recommended for Belfast Waterfront

Artist’s impression of how the £29.5m extension to Belfast Waterfront will look upon completion.

Artist’s impression of how the £29.5m extension to Belfast Waterfront will look upon completion.

A Belfast City Council committee has recommended the creation of a council-owned company to run the Belfast Waterfront on completion of the current £29.5m extension.

Work on a new state of the art conference and exhibition facility, which is due to open in May 2016, is well advanced as Belfast aims to become a major player in the global conference market with the target of generating £100m return for the city over a five-year period.

The council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee has recommended those objectives, and best value for ratepayers, would be best achieved by the arm’s length company, owned by the council but operating more independently.

The detailed analysis presented led the committee to recommend that the council-owned model would best enable the Waterfront to successfully compete with other international conference venues in attracting major events and creating over 1,500 new hospitality and retail jobs.

The decision was however not unanimous and the recommendation is now subject to ratification at the council’s monthly meeting on September 1. If agreed, a board of directors will be appointed, with the new company taking over daily running of the Waterfront from April 2016. The venue will remain in the council’s ownership.

“The decision to invest £29.5m in the Waterfront was a vote of confidence in Belfast’s growing reputation as an international conference destination, and this recommendation now takes the crucial step of providing greater commercial freedom to the venue, so it can fully realise its potential within what is a highly competitive and fast-paced marketplace,” said Councillor Declan Boyle, chairman of the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee.

“To do this, we must have the right structures, conditions and incentives in place to attract and secure bookings, develop our professional, passionate employees and, above all, create a fantastic experience for customers which sells our city to the rest of the world.

“We are committed to ensuring that any new management and working arrangements are introduced as smoothly as possible, if agreed by full council, and will be working closely with staff and the trade unions over the coming months to achieve this.”
Staff will have their pensions and contractual employment conditions protected.

Councillor Boyle pointed out that, with 25 international and national events already confirmed for 2016 and beyond, an enhanced Belfast Waterfront was already bearing fruit.

“Doubling the number of conference delegates travelling to Belfast is good news for everyone who wants to see our city thrive,” he said. “The benefits are obvious – more jobs created, new investors attracted to a vibrant, friendly city, additional rates income generated and, for communities, the potential to reinvest our success back into other improvements right across the city, making sure everyone feels the impact of this exciting and game-changing project.”

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