Belfast City Council Draft Plan Strategy - Where is it in the system?

Belfast Local Development Plan (LDP) draft Plan Strategy (DPS) had been published for consultation on 23rd August and it had previously been agreed to keep the timetable under review to consider progress to date and the next stages in the process.

Whilst approval for publication of the DPS had been granted by the Council in June, it had been agreed to delay the launch until the end of the summer break to enhance the potential engagement and responses.

Due to the revised launch date for the DPS, it was likely that the full DPS consultation stage, including collation of representations and reporting to Councillors, would be completed by March 2019.


Following this, the DPS, all associated documents and all representations received must be collated and submitted to the Department for Infrastructure in May 2019. Following its consideration of the documents, DfI would then refer the DPS to the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC) for the Independent Examination stage.

DfI had recently indicated that its consideration of the document should take up to six weeks, meaning that the DPS and all documents would be issued to the PAC by the end June, 2019.

Anger rises at Community Pharmacists meeting as some claim they are on verge of closure

Threat to vital health service will have negative and damaging impact to most vulnerable in society meeting hears. 

Over 100 local pharmacists from across Northern Ireland met in Belfast last night to express their real frustration and anger about the lack of progress by the Department of Health in addressing the funding crisis in community pharmacy.

Gerard Greene, Chief Executive, Community Pharmacy NI

Gerard Greene, Chief Executive, Community Pharmacy NI

The meeting was called in direct response to the fragile position the sector finds itself after five months of campaigning and engagement has failed to bring any certainty or clarity for the future.

The cost of providing community pharmacy services is currently under-funded “by at least £20 million” and around 90% of pharmacist respondents to a recent CPNI survey feeling the “current funding situation is having an impact on their own health and wellbeing”, the representative body Community Pharmacy NI has claimed.

Many local pharmacists who attended the meeting also claimed that the paralysis in decision making will result in pharmacies closing and will reduce people’s access to a vital health service, impacting the most vulnerable in society.

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A direct appeal was made to Richard Pengelly, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health to alleviate the problems and follow through with the commitment to release funding to arrest the decline within community pharmacy.

Gerard Greene, Chief Executive, Community Pharmacy NI commented after the meeting:

“The level of anger being directed towards the Department of Health is at boiling point. The contractors that we represent are adamant that this stand-off cannot continue.”

“They are at breaking point as the realities of managing their businesses on a day to day basis, whilst serving patients and customers, is causing severe strain.” 

“The cost of providing the community pharmacy service is hugely underfunded due to a shortfall in what the Department of Health is willing to allocate, and the cost of keeping community pharmacies open.”

“Some contractors have told us that they are ready to go out of business. This is unacceptable and must be urgently addressed.”

“We are calling for clear and fair remuneration and reimbursement so that investment can take place to meet safety, quality and efficacy requirements. At present that just does not exist.”

One leading Community Pharmacist, Paul Savage from Belfast added:

“Consistent underfunding means that myself and my community pharmacy colleagues everywhere cannot afford to keep normal stocks of medicines which shows how grave the situation is.”


“It is completely unacceptable and unjust that we have been forced to subsidise the provision of an essential healthcare service due to this lack of funding.”

“The year on year increase in workload of community pharmacists’ means that we have still to undertake a combination of core dispensing, over the counter medicine supply and advice, wider community pharmacy services and employ a skilled workforce at the same time as the level of funding from government has, in real terms decreased.”

New service 'Food Safe System' launched

Belfast based firm Food Safe System has launched an innovative new service which could help prevent outbreaks of lethal food poisoning and save businesses hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.

Neil Bradley, CEO, Food Safe System

Neil Bradley, CEO, Food Safe System

The Food Safe System replaces old-fashioned paper-based food safety monitoring with smartphone technology and cloud computing to help prevent food poisoning and food related illnesses.

Food Safe System was founded by Neil Bradley, an award-winning chef and restauranteur for over 25 years, when he became frustrated with the old fashioned, paper-based system and the lack of an affordable, usable alternative for adhering to important food safety standards within his own restaurants.

Belfast City Council has estimated that food related illnesses affect 11,200 people in the city and costs the economy an estimated £19 million annually.

The dangers associated with food related illnesses means businesses in Northern Ireland are required to adhere to strict food safety regulations including, for example, keeping refrigerators and freezers at certain temperatures.

The process of adhering to these regulations through manual monitoring and clumsy paperwork can be ad hoc, inefficient and can cost companies thousands of pounds in work hours annually.

Human error can also mean companies fail to carry out monitoring properly, which can lead to food poisoning for customers, loss of stock for businesses and heavy fines.

Neil Bradley CEO of Food Safe System said:

“I’ve worked as a chef and I’ve seen how inefficient and even dangerous the old paper system can be. Every chef and owner in the business will tell you that adhering to food safety compliance is time consuming and stressful but absolutely critical to the success of any business.”

"The hospitality industry is booming in NI and we have some amazing restaurants and bars here. At Food Safe System we’re very lucky to already be working with some of the best in Belfast.

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“Food Safe System can be adapted to the needs of each company and has been designed to make life easier for our customers so they can focus on doing what they do best by providing top quality service to their customers with complete peace of mind."

Executive Head Chef of the Beannchor Group, Patrick Leonard added:

“The Food Safe System is a fantastic innovation. It’s so important to adhere to food safety regulations to avoid any risk of food illness but everyone in the business knows how frustrating and inefficient the old-fashioned paper systems can be when it comes to monitoring.”

“The Food Safe System makes it so much easier to monitor food safety standards automatically and gives me warnings directly to my smartphone when something happens that I need to know about. This means I can focus on running my kitchen to the highest standard.”

Foyle Port Announces Strong Results As Organisation Prepares for Brexit

Foyle Port has announced a new record turnover of £9.1million, with an operating profit of £1.8 million for the 2017/2018 financial year.

Now in its sixth year of consecutive growth, Foyle Port reinvests all its profits to continually improve the business and upgrade facilities.

Foyle Port

Foyle Port

Recent financial success has allowed the Port to undertake a period of significant capital investment in assets and infrastructure, including an expansion in the harbour estate by 23 acres and an increase in the capacity of the marine fleet located at the Port.

The average number of employees also increased by approximately 10% to 100 employees, representing payroll costs for the organisation of £3.6million per year.

Foyle Port Chair, Bonnie Anley, commented:

“Since the launch of our new strategy, our performance has outstripped targets and the Port business has continued to grow. This model has increased our resilience and put Foyle Port on a strong footing to meet any challenges that lie ahead.”

Foyle Port Chair: Bonnie Anley

Foyle Port Chair: Bonnie Anley

“As we move closer towards Britain’s exit from the European Union we will need to navigate change and uncertainty, both locally and nationally.”

“Our strong business model, coupled with our dedicated port team, leave me in no doubt that Foyle Port has the flexibility needed to adapt to a new commercial context and the innovation needed to capitalise on all new opportunities arising in the future.”

Foyle Port Chief Executive, Brian McGrath commented:

“The outstanding corporate performance of the organisation, year on year, demonstrates the in-depth strength of our operational team.” 

Brian McGrath, Chief Executive, Foyle Port

Brian McGrath, Chief Executive, Foyle Port

“The Port’s location at Lisahally underpins our key position as an Atlantic gateway for the United Kingdom and Europe. Furthermore, the Port’s operations straddle both British and Irish jurisdictions.”

In relation to the potential forthcoming City Deal for the North West, Brian McGrath added:

“The Port Economic Zone naturally sits across the wider City Region. With multi deep-water terminal locations within the harbour, and an extensive port landbank with close proximity to industrial power, we are ready to play our part as an industrial platform in support of a City Deal for Derry / Londonderry.”

Lack of Assembly costing NI Hospitality sector millions and threatening its future

Hospitality Ulster says continued position of NI Assembly like being ‘trapped in a scene from Father Ted’


Hospitality Ulster has said the lack of a Government in Northern Ireland is costing the sector millions and damaging the potential for future growth - sighting the lack of progress to modernise Liquor Licensing as one of its major contributors to the losses.

A Liquor Licensing Bill was one of the few pieces of legislation the Assembly had introduced at that time, but the collapse of Stormont killed the Bill which set out to address the antiquated laws.

And there is now growing anger among the hospitality sector as Hospitality Ulster holds its latest AGM in Belfast today.

Tens of millions of pounds are being lost every year due to the fact that the draft legislation continues to gather dust, putting Northern Ireland at a competitive disadvantage.  The annual meeting also comes after the recent news that every four days a pub in Northern Ireland closes for good, whilst hotels and restaurants struggle to recruit staff and Brexit threatens to stop access to vital labour markets.

The leading industry body has now called for serious focus to be placed on developing the hospitality offer as a key driver for the local economy and a vital element of our tourism offer.

Modern licensing laws won’t result in more alcohol being drunk, it will mean our pubs, restaurants and hotels can offer our customers what they want and hopefully attract people away from home drinking into a controlled environment.

With Minimum Unit Pricing of alcohol also remaining an untouched issue, harmful drinking continues to rise. The latest research shows that only 6% of the population consumes 44% of the alcohol, predominantly at home, with the negative consequences placing a huge strain on the health and social care system here. Attracting them into a pub would help to counter the negative impacts of home drinking.

Colin Neill, Chief Executive said:  

“Both the current and future potential of the hospitality sector is being damaged with outdated legislation, crippling business rates, and a lack of access to labour, due to the lack of a functioning government in Northern Ireland”

“It’s like Father Ted, where the intentions are good, but descends into never ending calamity. We have now found ourselves caught up in a farcical episode on repeat.”

“It’s the ‘Careful now, down with that of thing’ scene but for SEVEN YEARS!”

Colin Neill, Chief Executive, Hospitality Ulster

Colin Neill, Chief Executive, Hospitality Ulster

“That’s nearly a decade since the NI Assembly started the process of modernising our antiquated licensing laws - nothing has happened. These losses can now be counted in millions of pounds to the hospitality industry and the Northern Ireland economy.”

“Since our last AGM we never thought we would continue to be in this pathetic position. We need someone to take the reins and make decisions, whether that is our politicians or civil servants.”

“There is a clear need for Northern Ireland to modernise its liquor licensing legislation and introduce MUP to reflect the needs of the modern market place and tackle the misuse of alcohol. We simply cannot continue with no decisions being made and the political paralysis stopping our industry from growing and developing. We are regressing through inertia and having to live with the consequences of the fact that the Assembly and Executive isn’t in operation.”

“We can’t keep saying, go on, go on, go on… we need our elected representatives to get back, get stuck in and give the hospitality sector the tools it needs to do the job.”

Belfast leisure centres support UK National Fitness Day


Better leisure centres in Belfast are joining sport and leisure facilities across the UK in supporting National Fitness Day on Wednesday 26th September.

Now in its eighth year, National Fitness Day is a ukactive initiative, aimed at inspiring people around the UK to take part in exercise, whilst raising awareness of the importance of leading healthier and more active lifestyles.

Better leisure centres across Belfast are taking part, including Avoniel, Ballysillan, Grove, Ozone, Olympia, Whiterock, Girdwood and Better Gym Connswater, with a host of free activities for all the family, including:

-        Open Day with Try It classes at Avoniel;

-        Open Day at Ballysillan;

-        Survive and Save Taster, including morning Group Cycle Taster and Tom Daly Diving Academy Taster at Grove;

-        Open Day at Ozone;

-        Open Day, including morning Group Exercise and evening Abs Blast at Olympia;

-        Open Day with Group Exercise Taster at Whiterock;

-        Group Exercise studio Open Day with instructor led classes in the morning and virtual class programme in the afternoon at Better Gym Connswater;

-        100,000 Moves Challenge across Better Gym leisure centres, with each person’s moves added to the real-time daily total through the mywellness app.

Conor McCallion, Regional Product Manager at GLL said:

“We are delighted to once again support ukactive’s National Fitness Day.

“Better Leisure Centres exist to provide affordable, accessible leisure facilities, to get more people more active more often. By supporting National Fitness Day, we are able to work alongside ukactive, aligning similar views to encourage people in communities across the country, to take part in physical activity.

“We have a range of exciting events taking place on the day, including Try It Classes and taster sessions, to suit people of all ages and abilities and we encourage everyone to head down to their local Better leisure centre and take part.

“Across our Belfast leisure centres, and using our Technogym mywellness technology, we will try and hit a set target of 100,000 moves as a gym total on the day. This will showcase our technology and help to build on our already great community spirit in Better Gym Belfast and I would encourage everyone, members and non-members alike, to get involved.”

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Chair of National Fitness Day organiser ukactive said:

“National Fitness Day is a powerful tool to raise the profile of physical activity and the role it plays in increasing the health of our nation. By getting people across the country involved we can help provide the initial steps towards continued involvement in physical activity.”

To find your nearest Better leisure centre, visit

Trade Credit Brokers rebrands to Willis Towers Watson Trade Credit and Surety to become Ireland's largest Trade Credit Insurance specialist

Trade Credit Brokers has rebranded to Willis Towers Watson Trade Credit and Surety Ltd, becoming the largest and best resourced Trade Credit Insurance and Surety specialist in Ireland.

Based in Belfast City Centre, and with an office in Dublin, Willis Towers Watson represents some of the most well-known brands and companies across a range of trade sectors and brokers over two-thirds of the Credit Insurance business across the island of Ireland. In Northern Ireland alone, its Trade Credit clients insure over £1.5billion worth of sales per year.

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Trade Credit Insurance has come into sharp focus recently with several iconic companies, such as the high-profile collapse of Carillion and House of Fraser making the news headlines leaving their supply chains exposed to hundreds of millions of pounds of unsecured debt.

Having Trade Credit Insurance provides vital protection for businesses against the impact of bad debt which can be caused by a failure of customers to pay for goods or services sold on credit. The impact of bad debt can be devastating for some companies, but Trade Credit Insurance can help to manage risk and elevate anxiety.

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As Brexit draws ever-closer, the growing threat of a no-deal outcome means that trade credit risks may be exacerbate, bringing an added layer of uncertainty to the already unsteady economic climate in Northern Ireland and businesses who are not protected with Trade Credit Insurance may face previously unforeseen dangers and challenges.

It is now more important than ever that businesses protect themselves and positively manage their credit risk with Trade Credit Insurance.

Nigel Birney, Head of Trade Credit and Political Risk Northern Ireland at Willis Towers Watson, said:

“The rebrand of Trade Credit Brokers to Willis Towers Watson Trade Credit and Surety Ltd represents the evolution of Trade Credit Brokers to become the largest and best resourced Trade Credit Insurance broker on the Island of Ireland.”

“At a time when the future of business appears to be unpredictable, Willis Towers Watson can help businesses to proactively manage this unpredictability. Trade Credit Insurance is about mitigating risks and provides reassurance and financial protection during difficult trading conditions. You only have to look at recent news headlines to see the number of businesses which have been saved due to having Trade Credit Insurance in place when a business further up the supply chain fails. No-one is immune no matter how safe they may seem.”

“The added uncertainty and upheaval of Brexit, means that businesses are now in a position where they do not know what maybe thrust upon them. It is a time for businesses to be as protected and prepared as possible.”

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“Trade Credit Insurance provides vital protection against the impact of bad debt caused by the failure of customers to pay for goods or services sold on credit and having Trade Credit Insurance can help businesses to proactively manage their credit risk. Having Trade Credit Insurance in place can help businesses de-risk and Willis Towers Watson can provide solutions and recommend an option for businesses who wish to proactively protect themselves and grow their business safely whether they are trading at home or abroad”

Eversheds Sutherland announces new Partner in Belfast - Matthew Howse

Eversheds Sutherland has announced Matthew Howse has joined their Belfast office as partner.

Matthew will join the litigation department of the international firm, bringing 13 years of legal experience with him from Birmingham and Belfast. Throughout his career he has specialised in litigation and dispute resolution.

Photo:  (From Left to Right) Matthew Howse (Partner, Eversheds Sutherland) and Alan Murphy (Managing Partner, Eversheds Sutherland).

Photo: (From Left to Right) Matthew Howse (Partner, Eversheds Sutherland) and Alan Murphy (Managing Partner, Eversheds Sutherland).

The announcement comes at a time of growth for the Belfast operation, who recently released plans to double its headcount in the next year and a half, with a focus on litigation, real estate, employment and banking.

The firm is also set to grow its Dublin office which currently employs 275 people.

Eversheds Sutherland managing partner, Alan Murphy said:

“We are thrilled that Matthew has joined us, bolstering the firm even further as we move into a period of expansion in Belfast and Dublin. We are ambitious for the future and need the right people to help us do that. Matthew is an impressive individual and will be a strong addition as a partner.”

Matthew Howse added:

“This is an exciting opportunity to play a leading role in the development of the Eversheds Sutherland presence not only in Belfast, but in Dublin and throughout its international offices. Eversheds Sutherland has an outstanding reputation for offering professional advice and its client servicing. This coupled with the plans for growth made it the right time to join.”

Former MLA Dawn Purvis named as new Chair of HIV Charity Positive Life

Dawn Purvis has been announced as the new chairperson of Northern Ireland’s only dedicated HIV charity, Positive Life.

The former MLA takes up the post after serving on the board of Positive Life for several years. She replaces Colum Conway who has been appointed as head of Social Work England.

Approximately 100 new cases of HIV are diagnosed every year in Northern Ireland and the numbers of new diagnoses continue to rise, unlike the rest of the UK where they are falling.

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Recently Positive Life, Northern Ireland’s only dedicated HIV charity revealed that the numbers of people with HIV accessing its services has almost doubled in just one year. New statistics showed that there was over an 80% increase since 2017. This unprecedented increase is a result of several wide-ranging campaigns to raise awareness around sexual health, stigma and support services.

Positive Life support services includes Counselling, Complementary Therapies, Social Events, Family Support along with Rapid HIV Testing. In many cases, Positive Life offers the only real and meaningful contact that those living with HIV have due to the overwhelming impact of the stigma around the condition here in Northern Ireland. 

Purvis takes up the role as Chair in the lead into World AIDS Day which takes place on 1 December and is one the focal points of the year for the charity.

Dawn Purvis, new chairperson of Positive Life said:

“I’m honoured to be taking up the role of chair of Positive Life. Last year saw the number of people in Northern Ireland living with HIV pass the 1000 mark and the number of Positive Life service users doubling. This shows just how vital the work carried out by our staff and volunteers is to help those affected live healthy lives and ensure they are treated with respect and dignity.”

“I’m keen that the lived experience of those with HIV in Northern Ireland remains at the heart of everything we do. One of the biggest issues that impacts our service users is the persistence of the all too common and harmful misconceptions around HIV and the daily stigma faced by those living with it.”

“We know that HIV doesn’t discriminate. We know that it can affect people regardless of their gender, religion, age or sexuality. We know this, but without an Assembly, without a Health Minister and a comprehensive sexual health strategy, there are no proactive measures being taken to combat the stigma that still surrounds HIV.”

“I will use my term as chair to further the issue of sexual health education and empowerment and push to end the stigma around the issue which is now a manageable lifelong condition and not the death sentence it once was.”

Chief Executive of Positive Life, Jacquie Richardson:

I am absolutely thrilled Dawn has taken up the post of chair of Positive Life. The organisation will benefit greatly from her skillset and experience, including her strong corporate governance knowledge. Dawn brings to this challenging position her caring, sympathetic personality and her exemplary commitment to helping those in Northern Ireland with HIV.”

“One of the most important jobs we have is combatting the stigma around getting tested and encouraging as many people as possible to take control of their own sexual health. There should be no embarrassment or shame in getting a HIV test if a person feels that they are at risk and the fact that there is has a direct and devastating impact on people’s lives.”


Brown O'Connor Communications Political and Business Events Forward Look September/October

September – October 2018



3 September, Next Belfast City Council Meeting

5 September, Hospitality Ulster, Retail NI and Manufacturing NI House of Commons reception

6 September, Social Media Belfast, Titanic Belfast

6&7 September, RHI inquiry with former Minister Jonathan Bell

10 September, Nominations for Irish Presidential Election close

12 September, NI Chamber Annual Networking Conference & Business Showcase

13 September, House of Commons, Conference Recess

14 September, IoD NI Young Directors Forum, Boojum, Allstate, Belfast

14 September, NI Affairs Select Committee Deadline for evidence on Education Budget Inquiry 

20 September, Next Belfast City Council Brexit Committee

22 September, NI Health & Fitness Awards, Crowne Plaza, Shaw’s Bridge  

23 September, Labour Party Conference, Liverpool

26 September, Derry City and Strabane District Council Investment/City Deal Event, London

27 September, Northern Ireland Energy Forum, Titanic Belfast

30 September, Conservative Party Conference, Birmingham


1 October, Closing date for entries for Women in Business Awards

1 October, Closing date for entries for NI Corporate Finance Awards

5 October, IoD NI Young Directors Conference 2018, Merchant Hotel, Belfast

8 October, In Camera Lunch with Sue Gray, Permanent Secretary, Department of Finance

9 October, Irish Budget (expected)

11 October, 2018 NILGA Annual Conference and Exhibition, Armagh City Hotel

12 October, Derry Chamber of Commerce Presidents Dinner

16 & 17 October, Hospitality Exchange 2018, Crowne Plaza Belfast

18 October, In-Camera Dinner with Head of the NI Civil Service, David Sterling

18 October, Big Data Belfast, Waterfront Hall

19 October, CIPR Awards, Culloden Hotel

25 October, CBI NI Annual Lunch, Titanic Belfast

26 October, Irish Presidential election

29-31 October, Build Peace Conference, Ulster University