Weak leadership and a lack of civic pride have been blamed for the slow pace of economic development in Londonderry — by the man tasked with regenerating the city.
Sir Roy McNulty, chairman of Derry’s Ilex Urban Regeneration Company, wrote his blunt criticisms of other public bodies and the local population in a letter and report to Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie. They have been obtained by the Belfast Telegraph through a Freedom of Information request.
Mr McNulty refers to “deficiencies in establishing result-driven priorities, joined-up thinking and integration of effort, and serious weaknesses in delivery capacity” among public bodies in the city.
Tourism is highlighted as an area of opportunity, but held back by a “local population that appears to lack a sense of civic pride”, “visitor servicing standards (that) fall short of the requirements of the modern day tourist” and “a City ambience that fails to make visitors feel truly welcome”.
Drawing on analysis by consultants TDI, Mr McNulty adds there is “a lack of leadership and direction for the (tourism) sector, resulting in a lack of strategic focus on the part of public officials and limited investor confidence”.
His report continued that there is “limited development of visitor attractions” in the city, “inadequate promotion of cruise ship calls” and “insufficient development of routes and services into the City of Derry airport”. As a result of these factors, “Derry … is not achieving the scale or growth of tourism performance that it could”.
Similarly, economic development as a whole is moving slowly, says Mr McNulty, comparing the city’s economy unfavourably with that of other cities, including Belfast.
“I consider that Derry is significantly disadvantaged in terms of the characteristics which make transformational change happen — clear sense of mission, leadership, energy, structures and relationships and other helpful mechanisms,” he writes.
The report appears to confirm suggestions that the urban regeneration company has a difficult relationship with other public bodies.
Mr McNulty says that “Ilex and its sponsoring departments (the Department for Social Development and the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First |Minister) do not yet have a shared vision of what Ilex is intended |to deliver and what Ilex’s role should be in relation to the role of DSD”.
He continues that there is “a mismatch between DSD and Ilex as to the ‘service standards and process expectations’ which are necessary to ensure that Ilex’s activities are carried out correctly and Ilex’s plans can be progressed expeditiously”. He recommends “closer liaison between Ilex and DSD”.
Mr McNulty adds: that “’inter-departmental co-operation is perhaps not always the most prominent feature of the NI Civil Service”.
He also says that Ilex “need(s) to increase the number of ‘quick wins’ and ‘visible improvements’ to help build community confidence”.
The report was dated June last year, but was not previously in the public domain.
Its main recommendation was the creation of a ‘strategy board’ to bring together the main public agencies in the city to improve co-ordination, which was established in April.
A DSD spokesperson said: “The Department and Ilex have worked closely together over the past year to improve the level of joint working and co-operation between the URC and a wide range of public bodies.
“DSD and OFMDFM are committed jointly to their working relationship with Ilex.”
An Ilex spokesperson said: “The report reflected the situation as it was in June 2008 and it should be stated that it highlights good work already carried out in the Derry City Council area.
“This approach has been |welcomed by all sectors in the city who have committed to working together to create a single, shared and compelling regeneration plan.
“Over the last 12 months Ilex, in partnership with the community and voluntary sector, local politicians, the private sector and the wider public sector, has been working to develop this single plan for the city.”
Derry City Council said: “Since the report progress has been made with advancing the business and masterplan for City of Derry Airport to improve commerical performance, expand the services available and ensure the airport achieves its full potential as an afforadable and successful regional airport.”