Members of the North West Strategic Growth Partnership held a virtual meeting yesterday (08-07-21) to discuss the North West City Region’s strategic opportunities for economic growth and prosperity. The Partnership meeting was held between senior Government officials from both the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive and civic leaders and officials from Donegal County Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council. Jointly led by the two Councils, and chaired by the two Mayors, the meeting was supported by the International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD).
Focusing on the content of the North West City Region’s statement of Regional Priorities 2021-27*, and the North West City Region Statement of Intent on Green Transformation*- (both documents recently shared with both Governments), the meeting covered a range of issues key to growth and prosperity for the North West City Region. These included updates from both Governments on strategic co-operation on infrastructure connecting the North West City Region to the rest of the island, and ongoing co-operation in relation to Further and Higher Education in the region. Discussions emphasised the relevance of the North West Strategic Growth Partnership as a potential vehicle for delivery by both Governments for the North West Region; and for delivering contributions to important growth and recovery for Ireland and Northern Ireland as a whole.
Central to all the discussions at the meeting was COVID19 and how the region is working collaboratively in dealing with the pandemic and the high level of work being done on a North South co-operation level to manage the pandemic and plan for recovery.
Post-pandemic recovery is also a key element of the Green Transformation Agenda and participants heard how COVID 19 has presented decision makers with an opportunity to deliver the change necessary to address climate and ecology emergencies. It was outlined at the meeting that the Statement of Intent on Green Transformation will be used by both Councils in the region to further guide activities and implementation towards achieving carbon neutrality by 2045.
The North West Strategic Growth Partnership is a unique structure that was first established in 2016 through the North South Ministerial Council, to provide support and discussion to the North West City Region. The Partnership is established in conjunction with and supported by The Executive Office and The Irish Government. Developed as a model of best practice in international development for a cross-border functional economic area, the core objective and purpose of the NWSGP is to facilitate the necessary cross border collaborative working required to release the full potential of the North West City Region as a net contributor to the economies of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
An Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council, Cllr Jack Murray said the cross-border regional collaborative approach was key to the success of the Partnership.
He said: “It is great to see the combined efforts for the further development of this natural region in so many areas. The close working relationship will be key to the delivery of projects that benefit all. This will add to the growth and prosperity of the entire North West Region.
Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Alderman Graham Warke, speaking after the Partnership meeting said it was hugely important to get an update on the progress with strategic investment in the region and have senior Government officials working in partnership to drive forward ambitious plans for the region.
“The meeting today was very interesting and informative and it was very reassuring to hear the work that is going on at a collaborative level to really develop and address the regional priorities for the growth and development across this North West City Region, It was also positive to hear at first hand the strategic approach in relation to connectivity on our road, rail and air infrastructure and the efforts being made to continue to place that top of our agenda for development.”
John G. McLaughlin, Chief Executive of Donegal County Council said this week’s meeting was hugely beneficial in further strengthening links between the two Councils, its partners and the two Governments. He said: “It is in all our interest to work together for the betterment of the whole North West of this island. By working together we can maximise the potential for delivery in a variety of areas that will benefit all of us. Collaboration is key to successfully developing a City Region that is thriving, sustainable and prosperous’’.
Extending a sincere thanks to everyone participating in the meeting, Chief Executive of Derry City and Strabane District Council, John Kelpie said it was more important than ever that these strong links with senior government officials are retained and re-emphasized the importance of collaboration. He said: “This partnership is hugely important in ensuring we are aligning on all our strategic policy plans and continued collaboration that will allow us to deliver on our key strategic infrastructural and regeneration projects in a way that is imaginative, forward thinking and sustainable.”
This paper was developed through the North West Strategic Growth Partnership and has been shared with both Governments. Setting the growth of the North West Region in a context of national, international and EU policy drivers for sustainable and inclusive growth and development, the paper identifies a range of priorities under three regional ‘growth pillars’ or themes for sustainability- economic growth and development, infrastructure/environment/green transformation, and social and community cohesion and wellbeing. The paper also includes potential pathways to implement the region’s priorities for sustainable growth, and highlights a range of opportunities that exist for scaling up on innovative collaborative approaches by Central and Local Government.
One of the key elements of the meeting was the presentation of a Green Transformation of the NW City Region of Ireland Statement of Intent which was agreed by both councils through the North West Regional Development Group. The document represents a cross-border agreed ambition and commitment to a whole systems approach to Green Transformation at regional level which aims to harness the transformative opportunity for ‘green growth’, enhanced sustainability and protection of our resources, and positions the region as a potential net contributor to important climate targets set by both Governments in the coming decades through achieving a critical mass of impact in terms of carbon emissions reduction, net production of clean energy, green innovation, and enhanced conservation and protection through collaborative cross-border approaches.
This Green Transformation document sets out the North West City Region’s overarching goal to become carbon neutral by 2045 by restoring, protecting and enhancing the natural heritage and biodiversity and working collectively to achieve strong economic growth through a circular economy, zero waste and resource efficient initiatives that will be supported by a range of strategies and projects under green infrastructure including regional energy, climate action and sustainable economy.
At the core of the regional commitment to Green Transformation is to drive forward leading innovations for regional development and economic growth alongside an improved quality of life whilst also sustaining the region’s natural resources, habitat and environment. The Green Transformation Statement of Intent was developed via a multi-disciplinary working group of relevant departments and units within both Donegal County Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council and facilitated by the International Centre for Local and Regional Development