Social Development Minister, Mervyn Storey MLA, has confirmed today that legislation – which would have transferred regeneration powers to the new councils – will not now proceed.
Powers to regenerate towns and cities across Northern Ireland currently sit with the Department for Social Development. However, through the Reform of Local Government, it had been agreed that these would transfer to the new councils when they were established in 2015.
Speaking about his decision not to proceed with the legislation – in the form of the Regeneration Bill – the Minister said: “Whilst some good progress has been made on taking the Bill forward, a number of fundamental policy issues have been raised which have slowed down the legislative process, making the timetable for putting this legislation into place extremely challenging.
“In addition to these issues I am also conscious that plans for the restructuring of Departments are well under way, including the creation of the new Department for Communities. In my view the preferable option is to first proceed with these changes and assimilate the various functions into this new Department. The Executive will then be in a better position to determine if and when some of these responsibilities would be best delivered at a local level.
The powers which were contained within the Regeneration Bill included:
- Town and city regeneration
- Area based regeneration
- Support for the voluntary and community sectors at local level and;
- Laganside, which was to transfer to Belfast City Council
The Minister added: “I believe that this approach will also offer a valuable opportunity to start again and take a fresh look at the underpinning policy. I have therefore decided not to proceed with the Regeneration Bill as is currently drafted.
“I still believe that local councils are best placed to deliver local solutions. I hope that the excellent working relationships that have been built up between the councils and my Department will continue as we work together on delivering these key services for the people of Northern Ireland.”
Today’s announcement means that regeneration powers will now remain with the Department for Social Development.
The Minister has notified the Assembly of his decision today by way of a written Ministerial Statement. The Statement can be viewed on the NI Assembly website.