Waterfront to be run by council-owned company

Work on the new conference and exhibition facility at the Waterfront is well advanced
Work on the new conference and exhibition facility at the Waterfront is well advanced

A council-owned company is to be established to run Belfast’s Waterfront Hall.

A £30 million extension is due to be completed by next May and the landmark building aims to compete with other international conference venues in attracting major events, creating more than 1,500 new jobs in the hospitality and retail sectors.

Detailed analysis presented to Belfast City Council has recommended that the council-owned model would best enable the riverside centre to compete for business.

“The decision to invest £29.5 million in the Waterfront was a vote of confidence in Belfast’s growing reputation as an international conference destination,” said Councillor Declan Boyle.

“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.”

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

The council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee concluded has recommended that 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.

“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,” said Mr Boyle who chairs the c0mmittee.

“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.”

The recommendation is now subject to ratification at the council’s monthly meeting on Tuesday, 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.