Plans to regenerate, reposition and rebrand the town of Carrickfergus have moved a step closer after a funding agreement was sealed for the rollout of the £42m project.

A key strand within the Belfast Region City Deal under the ‘Tourism and Regeneration’ pillar, the Carrickfergus Regeneration is one of three projects in Mid and East Antrim that will collectively benefit from more than £80m investment as part of the City Deal.

The Carrickfergus project will firmly place the town on the map as an authentic, heritage-led, tourism hub, and a ‘must-visit’ starting point to the internationally acclaimed Causeway Coastal Route.

Following agreement with the Department for Communities, the lead department for this project, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council recently approved the signing of a funding agreement with Belfast City Council as Accountable Body for the Deal.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Alderman Noel Williams, said: “I welcome continued progress on the Belfast Region City Deal vision for Mid and East Antrim.

“As Mayor and a Carrickfergus resident, I am extremely excited and enthusiastic about the ambitious plans to regenerate our historic town.

“Over the next couple of years, we will be continuing to work closely with our partners to unlock the incredible potential of Carrickfergus, and Mid and East Antrim as a whole, through this once-in-a-generation investment from City Deal.”

The work will deliver upgrades and improvements to Carrickfergus Castle – including its visitor hub and historic walls – alongside a significantly enhanced public realm scheme that will improve the Castle’s connection to the town centre.

The work is expected to boost Mid and East Antrim’s economy by more than £9m and create around 155 jobs in the attractions.

Construction work is expected to create more than 140 jobs per year, with work due to be completed by 2029.

The Carrickfergus Regeneration strategy is built upon investment in the heritage assets of Carrickfergus and its town centre to attract more visitors, to encourage them to stay longer and to spend more. It will also see revenue investment to further increase economic benefits, such as helping town centre businesses to capture more visitor spend and to gain employment and training benefits for residents.

The Mayor added: “This project represents an exciting opportunity for Carrickfergus. The £42m investment, as part of the Belfast Region City Deal, will transform the town centre and provide a wide range of social and economic benefits for the people of Carrickfergus and the surrounding area. The project will boost the local tourism trade and increase visitor numbers to the area. It will also have a positive impact on the rich cultural heritage of Carrickfergus with, upgrades to the Castle, the new Visitor Centre and with the rejuvenation of the historic town walls.”

The Department for Communities’ Permanent Secretary, Colum Boyle, said: “The benefits stemming from the Belfast Region City Deal for the residents and businesses of Carrickfergus really are vast. By enhancing its buildings and spaces in a way that complements the restoration of its historic features, this significant regeneration will make the town even more attractive and engaging for locals and visitors alike.

“The investment in our public realm in the town will promote healthy lifestyles through an enhanced network of outdoor places and spaces, helping to support and sustain fit and healthy local communities.

“The team at DfC will continue the excellent partnership working with Council colleagues, and wider stakeholders, to ensure the exciting vision for the town becomes a reality.”

A Carrickfergus Project Board has been established and includes partners from a range of public sector organisations, including Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Department for Communities, Department for Infrastructure, Tourism Northern Ireland and Translink, who will work together to realise this vision for Carrickfergus.

Progress will be closely monitored and shaped by Council’s City Deal Elected Members Working Group, which includes Cllr Robert Logan, Cllr Robin Stewart, Ald Billy Ashe MBE, Ald Robin Cherry MBE, Cllr Gregg McKeen, Cllr Timothy Gaston and Ald Audrey Wales MBE.

The Mayor concluded: “The Deal sets out a vision to create 20,000 new and better-paid jobs across the region’s growth sectors; pushing the ‘fast-forward’ button on inclusive economic growth and ensuring opportunities are accessible across all of our communities. It will also improve infrastructure, digital connectivity, visitor attractions and innovation hubs; and deliver a major skills and employability programme.”