North West needs its own plan: united front

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Local politicians from both sides of the border will today urge the Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy to put in place a bespoke investment plan for the North West to help tackle chronic problems such as economic deprivation and high unemployment.

The cross-border delegation makes the call two weeks after the parties to the Stormont House Agreement agreed to meet in the North West in early 2015 to consider how to better develop the Londonderry, Limavady and Donegal areas.

The delegation - led by Derry City and Strabane District Council - will also impress upon the Minister how delivering key road and rail projects such as the new Waterside Railway station is central to the development of the area.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, the Presiding Councillor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Maolíosa McHugh, said the meeting was significant in that it provided the delegation with an opportunity to speak directly with the Minister on a range of issues of concern including the stalled upgrade of the A5, the lack of commitment for the upgrade of the A6 and ongoing issues relating to the rail network between Londonderry and Belfast as well as progress with the Waterside Railway Station project.

He said: “I am delighted that the Minister has agreed to meet us and to afford us the opportunity to present our concerns about the urgent need for investment in long overdue critical infrastructure for the entire North West region.

“I welcome the fact that we have representatives from our neighbouring Councils supporting us in our efforts.

“We will be providing a strong united front to present our case on a number of broad strategic issues that will help enhance the region and improve the connectivity of the city, its’ hinterland and the wider Northwest region to both Belfast and Dublin.”

The Mayor of Londonderry Brenda Stevenson and Strabane District Council Chairman Dan Kelly will be attending along with elected members and officers from Derry City and Strabane District Council, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Mid Ulster Council and Donegal County Council.

The meeting was set up following a motion raised at a Full Council meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council, by SDLP Councillor Martin Reilly when members sought an urgent discussion with the Minister to highlight the high level of deprivation and unemployment affecting citizens in the district and to encourage him to put into place a plan to help tackle these problems and encourage investment to the region.

In addition the delegation will seek an update on progress with critical physical infrastructure projects required for the region.