Derry and Strabane city deal funding at least a year away

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Securing city deal status has been seen as integral to Derry City and Strabane District Council's long term economic strategy

Derry City and Strabane District Council will have to wait at least a year to receive a multimillion pound funding package to boost the economy in Northern Ireland's north west.

The Derry and Strabane city deal was announced in May.

It would see the region receive £105m in government funding.

But the BBC has learned it will take at least 12 months before funding is released.

It comes after Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith warned the money was dependent on the devolved executive at Stormont returning.

The Derry and Strabane deal is one of a number of economic packages designed to boost regions in Northern Ireland.

Derry and Strabane city deal

The £105m Derry and Strabane district area city deal is to receive £50m to support innovation and grow the area's digital sector.

A further £55m has been allocated to an inclusive future fund for the region, the first of its kind in the UK.

DCSDC anticipates the funding will be further boosted by the Northern Ireland Executive and additional financing from project partners and the private sector.

The local authority estimates the total investment will eventually top £300m.

In response to a BBC Radio Foyle Freedom of Information request, Derry City and Strabane District Council (DCSDC) said it is working with stakeholders and relevant government departments to agree heads of terms - an outline business case.

The council said it hopes to agree this "in the next few months."

DCSDC added: "Following this, full outline business cases will have to be developed for each project and subject to a full economic appraisal process.

"This process is anticipated to take at least 12 months once the heads of terms have been formally signed."

The council reiterated that the funding is dependent on the return of a Stormont executive.

DCSDC has been advised by the government that the city deal requires "a fully-functioning devolved government in place".

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Ulster University in Derry would undergo considerable expansion within the city deal plans

It has also been revealed that the bulk of the £105m funding is being earmarked for Ulster University's expansion in the north west.

Council has confirmed £30m has been proposed from the inclusive future fund to Ulster University's graduate entry medical school.

A further £40m has been allocated from the city deal funding to Ulster University for centres of innovation and excellence in data analytics and robotics and automation.

The expansion of the university - which has a campus at Magee in Derry - in the north west has long been regarded as a catalyst for economic growth in the region.

An Ulster University spokesperson said it is contributing "10% university funding to the Magee projects within city deal."

That level of funding, the spokesperson added "reflects our belief in the impact they will make, and our commitment to playing our part in the collective ambitions of city deal."

The spokesperson said education, innovation, job creation and skills development are at the core of Derry and Strabane's city deal and as such, the university is "a natural fit and a committed partner in this ambitious bid."