Agenda item

Deputation - To receive Mr B Toal and Ms C McGee, Foyle River Gardens Trust to discuss the Foyle River Gardens Project

Minutes:

The Committee received Mr Toal and Mr Deane, Foyle River Gardens to

discuss the Foyle River Gardens Project. 

 

Mr Deane thanked Council for the opportunity to address the Committee and

provided Members with an introduction to the Foyle River Gardens Project.

 

Mr Toal referred to the fact that he had addressed Council on previous

occasions however, this was the first time in open business.  He presented a

short film showing the scale and grandeur of this unique piece of landscape. 

He then gave a joint power-point presentation highlighting the following

issues:

 

Foyle River Gardens Project Mission

 

“To be a symbol of regeneration, transforming spaces and communities to

crease a sustainable world-class asset for Derry-Londonderry”

 

So, what does the Foyle River Gardens do that’s different?

 

Education &               Health &         Employment              Environment Skills                Wellbeing                                                                  

 

Tourism                      Heritage,

            Culture &

            History

 

Community

 

Foyle River Gardens Charitable Trust

 

The Masterplan – Our Principles

 

-      Integrate with the natural landscape

-      Visually and physically, connect to the river

-      Iconic Architectural Interventions

-      Create an open and accessible knowledge network

-      Weave a sensory water narrative through the site

-      Activity every couple of minutes

-      Celebrate the site’s untouched natural beauty

-      Legacy

-      Enhance Heritage Assets

-      Connect the Public to the River Foyle

 

The Zones

 

Site Opportunity

 

Boom Hall – A Romantic Ruin

 

The Walled Gardens Trail – A unique network of heritage and productivity, some even older than the City Walls

 

The Ice House – A Subterranean Dining Experience accessed from the River

 

Forest Cabins – experience nature at first hand

 

The Canopy – Learning is fun in the iconic submerged structure concealed within the Landscape

 

Riverside Lido and Theatre – heated by biomass, enjoyed by the many

 

Third Level Educational Campus open to the public

 

Greenhouse, Laboratory and Soil Testing Site

 

A Co-working community hub for ecoentrepreneurs

 

Innovative transport through the site

 

Making the River Foyle come alive

 

Connecting with nature through landscape trails

 

Bringing the Gardens into the sky

 

Connecting young people through the Youth Gateway Park

 

Instilling drama into the landscape

 

Our Five Core Themes

 

-      Economic Activity

 

-      Creativity

 

-      Play Activity

 

-      Productivity

 

-      Connectivity

 

Mr Toal referred to a joint announcement earlier that day from Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University that they were collaborating to explore the potential of working with the Eden Project to develop a new world-class research project as part of the Foyle River Garden project.  He stated that planning was at an early stage however they were committed to progressing this exciting proposal which would have significant benefits for the North West and Northern Ireland.

 

Mr Toal stated said this was a major announcement which it was felt would offer a huge advantage to the further and higher education provision within the City.  He stated that the Trust were delighted and excited at the interest displayed by both universities in this site and their decision to collaborate for the benefit of the City and for their students.  He referred to the potential this offered in terms of attracting international students to the City to study.  He stated that the proposals had been discussed and agreed by the Vice Chancellors of both universities and this was clearly a very innovative and ambitious way forward.  He continued that a Development Committee would be established to drive forward this project which would include both Vice Chancellors together with a number of senior figures from various arenas and he requested that a Senior Director from Council be also nominated to sit on this Committee.  He concluded that this was a major project which would provide a wonderful experience for tourists and locals alike.

 

The Chairperson thanked Mr Toal and Mr Dean for their presentation and commended them on this project.  He said this was extremely ambitious and was positive news for the City and referred to the potential of the decision by both universities to collaborate on the site.  He said he would welcome more detailed information from the universities regarding their proposals for the site.

 

Councillor Dobbins congratulated the deputation on their plans for the area which were exciting, ambitious and boundless.  She remarked on the current under-utilisation of the River Foyle particularly in terms of sports, eco-activities and water travel and said this would be a tremendous legacy for the City.  She referred to the existing Boom Hall site which, in its current state presented a danger.  She stated that the plans which had been presented utilised every aspect of the area and she hoped that these would be realised and the project would come to fruition.  She said this would prove a major contribution to the City both in terms of tourism and education.  She also welcomed the earlier announcement from the two universities which would provide amazing opportunities for students.

 

Councillor Duffy congratulated the Trust on its vision in developing the project which was exciting and ambitious and emulated Council’s observations for the future of the City and integrated well with the various elements in terms of innovation in moving forward.  She stated that the area in question provided the perfect canvas for the various aspects contained in the project and certainly had an elevated quality.  She welcomed the collaboration of the two universities.  She queried the current position in relation to the dispute regarding land ownership.  She also sought clarification on the source of the proposed investment into the project of £60m over seven years.

 

Mr Toal explained that from the Trust’s perspective the availability of the land in question had been the main inspiration and inception behind this project which the Trust hoped to maximise to the fullest potential of the area.  In response to suggestions regarding the inclusion of other walled gardens, he referred to the possibility of creating a walled garden trail leading upstream which could be marketed by Council.  He pointed out that the project did have the potential for cross border development which the Trust wished to investigate and discussions had already taken place in this regard and any opportunities which arose would be promoted.  He referred to the potential for opportunities as a result of Brexit and to meetings which had taken place with representatives from both the Dublin government and Donegal County Council to discuss this possibility and how it could be progressed.  He referred to the possibility of developing water cruises which could link the entire North West.  He stated that the emphasis was on developing tourism and encouraging tourists to remain in this area.

Mr Toal referred to discussions which had taken place with the Loughs Agency who had indicated that there were more salmon in the River Foyle than in the entire Scottish Lochs which provided a major opportunity in terms of licensed fishing.   He stated that to agree a focal point through which to market and sell the City would be a tremendous achievement with unlimited potential.

 

In relation to what was being sought from Council, Mr Toal said the Trust were hoping for a Senior Council Officer to help drive forward this project.  He stated that this had already been discussed with Council however, the vision was now becoming a reality.  He stated that any costs in respect of works carried out to date had been met from within the Trust’s budget however they did not have limitless funding.  He said they believed if they had the support of Council in terms of attracting funding this would prove a major feat.  He referred to the fact that any forthcoming City Deal would be based on innovation and as this project was both refreshing and unique it presented a major example of social innovation which was accessible for all whilst providing opportunities for the public.  He also referred to the need to examine alternative ways of bringing innovation into further and higher education.  He referred to the possibility of having the project included in the City Deal proposals given itsinnovation and accessibility and potential for social inclusion.

 

Councillor Tierney said this project had the potential to create amazing opportunities for the City.  He acknowledged the Trust’s request for a senior Council Officer to become involved and queried the impact of such a move on Council and the role of the Officer involved.

 

The Director of Environment and Regeneration, having heard the presentation and the request for Council’s involvement, advised that Officers would prepare a report based thereon for presentation to the November Meeting of the Committee when a decision could be made regarding Council’s involvement based on the information presented.  She advised that Council Officers had been working with the Trust and would continue to do so particularly in relation to obtaining information from them to include in the innovation proposal of the City Deal proposition.

The Chairperson queried how the collaboration of the two universities, would conform with or compliment Ulster University’s proposals for a post graduate entry Medical School and if it would detrimentally impact on maximum student numbers for Magee.

 

Mr Toal referred to discussions which had taken place regarding this issue.  He pointed out that when Queen’s University had initially expressed an interest in becoming more involved, it was clearly indicated that the proposals would not affect either the proposals of the Ulster University or its growth plans for the City nor would it impact on the maximum student numbers at Magee.  He said the proposals were to attract a mix of undergraduate, postgraduate and foreign students.  He advised that Queen’s University had been in contact with the Permanent Secretary regarding these proposals as a major project going forward and had received assurances that consideration would be given to additional student places over and above maximum student numbers for Magee. He referred to the planning process which must be undergone and the need to secure the required funding which could possibly take 2-3 years, at which stage it was hoped the Stormont Executive would have returned to power. 

 

Mr Toal referred to discussions which had taken place with the Strategic Investment Board and pointed out that an outline business case had now been prepared and consideration given to various design aspects.  He said it would be amazing to secure formal funding for the project.  He pointed out that the £60m figure did not include the university aspect of the project and was solely in respect of the Foyle River Gardens.  He anticipated a possible involvement with the City Deal proposition and SIB however this remained to be seen. 

 

Members thanked the deputation for their presentation and they withdrew from the Meeting.

 

 

 

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