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EDITIONS
Monday, 20 May, 2002, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
Backing for shipyard survival plan
Aeriel view of Belfast shipyard
The shipyard has been in decline for a number of years
A further 80 acres of former shipyard land is to be redeveloped to enable Harland and Wolff to progress its business plan for the yard.

Belfast Harbour Commissioners welcomed the announcement by the minister for regional development Peter Robinson on Monday.

Harland and Wolff, which is owned by the Norwegian company Olsen Energy, has been unable to secure enough shipbuilding work.


I have a number of reasons to believe that this decision is in the best interests of Northern Ireland Plc

Peter Robinson
Minister for regional development

A lack of money to keep the business going during continuing hard times made the threat of closure more immediate.

In March, the company announced that it was to lay off another 140 staff following a raft of redundancies over the last few years.

Harlands' management had placed their hopes of stopping the business closing altogether on a restructuring plan.

The company had been preparing to issue redundancy warning notices to the yard's remaining workers in case the recovery plan was not accepted.

Mr Robinson approved the changes to Harland and Wolff's lease which will facilitate the redevelopment.

Peter Robinson: Regional Development Minister
Peter Robinson: Agreed in principle to the plan last month

Speaking in the assembly on Monday, Mr Robinson said: "Having now completed my examination of the proposition put to my department... I have decided to approve the proposal.

"I have a number of reasons to believe that this decision is in the best interests of Northern Ireland Plc.

"It will facilitate the regeneration of a substantial area of the harbour estate - a prime site, close to the city centre - which, if left, would rapidly become an eyesore.

"Development of the land offers fresh job opportunities."

Belfast Harbour Commissioners said it would work with The Titanic Quarter Ltd to secure the redevelopment on the basis of a public private partnership.

It said the move would build on the success of the Odyssey centre and the recently announced Northern Ireland Science Park.

Harbour estate

There are plans for the area around Harlands to be developed as a new commercial and entertainment sector called the Titanic Quarter, after the famous liner built at Harlands.

Sir Reg Empey:
Sir Reg Empey: "Not a short-term measure"

The Commissioners own about 2,000 acres of land within the harbour estate.

Earlier this month, the BBC learned the immediate future of the shipyard seemed to have been secured.

The Northern Ireland Executive gave its backing to the business plan put forward by managament at the yard.

Harland's management put the plan to ministers several weeks ago and warned that the yard could face closure unless a rescue plan could be agreed.

Enterprise Minister Sir Reg Empey said the proposals were not a short-term measure.

Last month, the regional development minister agreed in principle to allow part of the shipyard's land to be sold for redevelopment.

Mr Robinson said the proposed land deal involving 78 acres was in the "public interest".

Olsen Energy has been increasingly focusing on the opportunity to make money by making its land in Belfast available for development for other uses.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's James Kerr
"There are no guarantees that the deal will save the yard"
Shipyard graphic

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Background:
See also:

22 Mar 02 | N Ireland
22 Mar 02 | N Ireland
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