Brexiteer Paterson visits key port town of Larne

Ald Robin Cherry, Cllr Audrey Wales, Owen Paterson and Anne Donaghy, chief executive of Mid and East Antrim Council.
Ald Robin Cherry, Cllr Audrey Wales, Owen Paterson and Anne Donaghy, chief executive of Mid and East Antrim Council.

Senior Tory Brexiteer Owen Paterson visited Larne on Thursday for in-depth discussions around the potential of the Belfast City Region Deal.

The former Northern Ireland Secretary of State was hosted by a delegation from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

The meeting took place a day after the Belfast Region City Deal propositions were brought to Westminster as Mid and East Antrim, along with five partner councils, outlined their vision for the once in a generation bid which could deliver £1billion of co-investment and around 20,000 jobs.

Mr Paterson said: “Thank you to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council for the invitation to visit the beautiful borough.

“This was an incredibly useful opportunity to discuss the Belfast Region City Deal proposals as well as the implications and opportunities for the area as a result of Brexit.”

Council’s Belfast Region City Deal group member Councillor Audrey Wales MBE said: “We were delighted to welcome Mr Paterson to Mid and East Antrim so he could see first-hand the incredible opportunity for economic growth and innovation in Mid and East Antrim.

“We met at Westminster on Wednesday, where we discussed our bid and the local projects outlined, and it was wonderful that Mr Paterson was so impressed he decided to visit us the next day to discuss these plans further.”

Alderman Robin Cherry MBE, who is also a member of the group, stated: “Belfast Region City Deal sets out a blueprint for future growth and create a more vibrant business culture, promoting and supporting investment, innovation and entrepreneurship.

“Thank you to Mr Paterson for taking the time to travel to Mid and East Antrim to discuss City Deal further with our group.”

MEA Council, along with its Belfast Region City Deal partners, are forging ahead with their efforts to secure £1bn co-investment from the UK government, regional government, local government and the universities, which will be added to by the private sector.

The objective is to create up to 20,000 new and better jobs and to deliver a 10-year programme of inclusive economic growth.

Following months of intensive preparations, deal partners, including Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Ards and North Down Borough Council, Belfast City Council, Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Newry and Down District Council, working in partnership with the Northern Ireland Office, universities and further education colleges, submitted their negotiating position to the NI Secretary of State and Westminster at the end of September. They’re keeping up the momentum to negotiate the best deal possible for the region.

The initiative includes plans for around £80m of investment in Mid and East Antrim with proposals to extend The Gobbins cliff path and the regeneration of Carrickfergus.