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Strand Arts Centre restoration

Strand Arts Centre Levelling Up Fund application

Published: 7 March 2024

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Submission details

Submission reference: LUF20734

Created time: Wednesday, 10 August 2022, 9.35am

Signed-in user: 60d21a6b-5e7d-47ff-87d4-b8c9d070035a

What is the legal name of the lead applicant organisation?

Belfast City Council

Where is your bid being delivered?

Northern Ireland

If you are a local authority, select your name from the list below


Enter the name of your bid

Northern Ireland’s Last Picturehouse – An Arts Centre for Belfast

Does your bid contain any projects previousl​y submitted in round 1?


Enter the total grant requested from the Levelling Up Fund


What is the type of your organisation?

Local Council

Investment themes

  • Regenerationand town centre: 50 per cent
  • Cultural: 50 per cent
  • Transport: 0 per cent

How many component projects are there in your bid?


Are you submitting a joint bid?


Grant value declaration

I am submitting a bid as a single applicant and can confirm that the bid overall does not exceed £20 million grant value


Gateway criteria: costings, planning and defrayment

I confirm that some LUF grant funding will be defrayed in the 2022-2023 financial year


Costings and Planning Workbook

  • Plan and Cost wkbk LVU version.xlsx

Provide bid name

Northern Ireland’s Last Picturehouse – An Arts Centre for Belfast

Provide a short description of your bid

The project will see the urgently needed renovation of NI’s remaining art deco picturehouse - preserving and showcasing NI’s cinema heritage and simultaneously creating a multi-functional arts space for East Belfast.

Situated in the deprived Inner East Neighbourhood Renewal Area, the Strand has served generations of local residents. This project’s outcomes and benefits include improved local pride and perceptions of place, attracting national and international cultural events to the area, increased audiences and participants

in the arts, increased consumer spending in-venue and surrounding area, improved health and wellbeing, creative skills development, improved education and employment aspirations, improved carbon footprint.

Provide a more detailed overview of your bid proposal

The intervention proposed in this bid is to bring to life a dilapidated art deco building which is Northern Ireland’s last picturehouse, preserving and

celebrating a positive social history which is relatable to people from all religious and economic backgrounds. Heritage outputs include a period entrance, foyer, two heritage film theatres and interactive interpretive design which will collectively ensure all patrons experience a ‘living museum’ of N.I’s picturehouse past.

Furthermore, restoration works will repurpose parts of the building (including voids and derelict areas) to improve and create new live performance facilities, creative learning spaces, office space and a café and bar. As a multipurpose arts centre with a variety of income streams and creative interventions, the social and economic sustainability of this building will be secure, as will the future of this architectural gem.

The project will also act as a catalyst for the wider regeneration of the area. Located at the junction of two main arterial routes in East Belfast, the renovation and development of this landmark building will have an important impact on the surrounding areas.

The social and economic needs for intervention are addressed in Section 7 and Appendices C and F. The immediate catchment area includes many of the city’s pockets of high deprivation which stand to gain significantly from this investment. The east of the city lacks arts infrastructure and yet it has historically birthed a wealth of globally recognised creative talent. Pilot arts activity in the building has been nothing short of impressive in quantum and impact, providing invaluable evidence of need and demand, whilst also highlighting the challenges, risks and unsustainable nature of the building in its current form.

Funding through LUF will enable this well-planned project, with considerable support from a wide range of stakeholders, to progress to RIBA Stage 4 and commence construction in 2023.

The benefits which will be derived include:

  • Increased engagement in the arts through improved equality of opportunity
  • Quality creative activities and events which resonate with local residents and inspire local pride
  • People building new skills and increase their educational and employment aspirations
  • A safe shared inclusive space serving a diverse audience
  • Reduced isolation of seniors and hard to reach
  • East Belfast will be a place where people want to live, work or visit
  • Notably improved carbon footprint of the building

This project is strategically aligned to the Levelling Up Fund’s call to ‘prioritise investment that not only bringing economic benefits, but also helps bind communities together’ and to a range of other local and national policies as outlined in Appendix C.

Provide a short description of the area where the investment will take place

This is a single site application for restoration of Strand picturehouse and arts centre, an iconic building on a prominent site in east Belfast, at 152-156 Holywood Road, Belfast, BT4 1NY.

The geographical spread of the wider East area covers a significant proportion of Northern Ireland’s capital city. The wider area of East Belfast stretches east from the River Lagan as far as Stormont Estate taking in Cregagh Glen in the south and George Best Belfast City Airport in the north. It also incorporates Titanic Quarter, itself a stand-alone tourism destination in its own right.

The ‘EastSide Urban Villages Strategic Framework’ (Aug 2016) describes the area as “a symbol of identity linking to the past, steeped in over 200 years of history, as well as to the future with a focus on new investment and a connector to opportunities beyond”.

The site of the project falls within the Inner East Neighbourhood Regeneration Area, and its catchment area is diverse, containing four super output areas with very high levels of deprivation, poor living environment and low levels of education, skills and training. These areas are close to other less deprived neighbourhoods making it a very mixed area. Over the last 2 decades the area has developed a much more diverse population in terms of religious or political traditions and ethnic backgrounds.

Given that it occupies a prominent site fronting a crossroads of two arterial routes, and sits in immediate proximity to dense residential housing and neighbourhood high street with several vacant shops, it is a priority location for regeneration. Two large new social housing developments are currently being built on adjacent sites. The Strand also has very good public transport connections, with bus and train stations in immediate proximity as well as cycle greenways.

Given the buildings unique heritage as NI’s only surviving picturehouse and the proposed heritage tourism offer the beneficiaries of the project will reach beyond its immediate catchment, to include the Greater Belfast Area and NI as a whole.

On restoration, the building will provide a mixed programme of heritage displays and tours, film, live performances and creative learning courses, as well as being a receiving house for community groups to make use of creative facilities.

It is anticipated that 45 per cent of the audience will derive from the east constituency, 50 per cent will be from Greater Belfast or other towns and cities across NI and 5 per cent will be out of state visitors.

Does your bid include any transport projects?


Provide location information

Location One

Enter location postcode: BT4 1NY

Enter location grid reference: NW 49513 29755

Percentageof bid invested at the location: 100 per cent

Optional GIS file upload for the location: 

Select the constituencies covered in the bid

Constituency One

Constituency name: Belfast East

Estimate the percentage of the bid invested in this constituency: 100 per cent

Select the local authorities covered in the bid: 

Local Authority One

Local authority name: Belfast

Estimatethe percentage of the bid invested in this local authority: 100 per cent

Sub-categories that are relevant to your investment

Select one or more regeneration sub-categories that are relevant to your investment


Select one or more cultural sub-categories that are relevant to your investment

Arts and Culture Creative Industries Visitor Economy

Select one or more transport sub-categories that are relevant to your investment

Active Travel

Provide details of any applications made to other funding schemes for this same bid that are currently pending an outcome

  • £1,701,000 of funding (29 per cent) toward the project has been secured or is in the process of being secured. Letters of offer and the Fundraising Strategy can be found in Appendix H Match Funding.
  • National Lottery Heritage Fund: £107,000 capital contribution received for Development Phase, £503,000 outlined for Delivery Phase.
  • Esme Mitchell Trust: £20,000 received.
  • John Swire Charitable Foundation: £20,000 received
  • Steel Trust: £15,000 received
  • Ulster Garden Village: £60,000 offered toward fitout costs
  • Garfield Weston email of support: £200,000 invitation to apply. Apply in August for receipt in October 2022.
  • Other Trusts and Foundations - £100,000 to be applied for in August, see Appendix H.
  • Private gifting delivered through Strand Arts Centre Capital Fundraising Campaign. £190,000 raised by March 2023, of which £46,520 has been raised to date.
  • No other funding applications have been made which would reduce the required funding from LUF.

Provide VAT number if applicable to your organisation


Bidders are invited to outline how their bid will promote good community relations, help reduce disparities amongst different groups, or strengthen integration across the local community

Belfast City Council works to put fairness, inclusion and respect at the centre of everything we do.

We promote good relations by promoting cultural diversity and respect for all cultural identities. We promote Belfast as a city for everyone.

Belfast is a vibrant city with a diverse population. Our residents are different in ethnicity, age, gender, religious belief, political opinion and whether they have a disability or don’t have a disability. We promote and must uphold equality and diversity in how we plan, offer and provide our services.

Through the Belfast Agenda, we have made a commitment to create and develop a shared, peaceful and reconciled city. The Belfast Agenda seeks to develop a city re-imagined, connected and resurgent delivering inclusive growth that leaves no-one behind. This long-term vision requires council, government agencies, the private sector and residents to work together, to collaborate and make it real.

Good relations legislation places a legal duty on all public bodies to have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between persons of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group.

The proposed project is aimed at ensuring that East Belfast is a welcoming place that provides a more diverse offer to different audiences. This bid will create a venue which is fully accessible to persons with limited mobility and enable the delivery of a creative programme of activity which promotes good community relations. Pilot activity and established relations with local community groups informed the following targeted outputs in the projects Logic Model: 70 per cent of audience or participants feel the programme supports their needs; partnering with or hosting 100+ local community groups for various events and activities each year; 152 relaxed screenings p.a. with total audience of 3,944; 20 staff are dementia, JAM and sign language trained; Cultural and ethnic diversity among the audience will reflect or exceed that of the NI population. The programme will include regular events and activities specifically designed to meet the needs of section 75 groups. A dynamic pricing structure has been identified to ensure events and activities are accessible to all.

Describe what engagement you have undertaken with local relevant stakeholders. How has this informed your bid and what support do you have from them?

Please read in conjunction with Appendices A and B

From the outset Belfast City Council and Strand Arts Centre engaged extensively with a range of stakeholders, including:

  • City councillors, particularly the East Belfast Area Working Group. Councillors are keenly aware of the buildings importance and wish to realise its potential as an arts centre
  • The MP, MLA’s and Senior civil servants. MP Gavin Robinson has hosted visits from Ministers and Permanent Secretaries to advocate for its preservation and refurbishment
  • MLAs and other key stakeholders have attended numerous engagement events at the Strand
  • Arts Council NI funded the East Belfast Arts Strategy (2014), the second aim being “ promote the development of the Strand as a dedicated arts centre”
  • EastSide Partnership, an NGO leading the regeneration of east Belfast, played a role in founding Strand Arts Centre

Since February 2021 Heritage Funded ‘Strand Stories’ has engaged over 2,500 people of all ages, including engagement with local schools (St Joseph’s, Strandtown, Dundela primaries and Ashfield High School) via a range of specially created talks, tours and education resources (see appendix B for details). Church groups, community groups, volunteer networks and care homes have also been involved in on-site and outreach presentations, discussions and oral history collections. The feedback has informed design development, highlighting what architectural and programming aspects of the Strand resonate most with current and prospective beneficiaries. The overwhelming affection and nostalgia displayed from broad audience informed the incorporation of a living museum element with interpretive displays and cinema ephemera weaving heritage through the full customer journey. Establishing the Strand as a home for all NI’s lost picturehouses.

In 2018 the Strand formally consulted with:

  • Sectorial bodies and funders on strategic importance of the Strand to the cultural, economic and community wellbeing
  • Local arts practitioners, schools, nursing homes, youth arts bodies, traders, local community groups and charities on the need and demand for the venue, its programmes and services
  • Audiences via an online survey to determine their current engagement in the arts and whether that might increase after refurbishment (survey results in Appendix B). Notable findings include:
    • 87 per cent are more likely to attend a theatre or music event or workshop if it is local to them.
    • 80 per cent consider the Strand more approachable than other arts venues (because it was their former local cinema).
    • 97 per cent strongly or somewhat agreed that the Strand adds to the sense of pride of place for East Belfast.

A Needs Appraisal commissioned by BCC as early as 2016 engaged a wide range of stakeholders including arts organisations who produce film, live music, theatre, heritage and tourism facilities, community services and skills development workshops. The response showed an enthusiasm to reach an east Belfast audience and an appreciation for the venues prominence, charm and history, but a lengthily list of specification requirements to make it fit for purpose. Local residents and traders also expressed eagerness to see the building brought back to life, and the provision of additional services.

Has your proposal faced any opposition?

Thanks to the Strand’s 87-year history of serving the local area, and engaging in extensive stakeholder engagement throughout the project’s development, the project has avoided any opposition, and conversely secured positive support from local residents, businesses, community organisations and key strategic partners such as EastSide Partnership and Arts Council of Northern Ireland. They all clearly see the potential of the Strand’s refurbishment complementing other heritage, arts and tourism initiatives in the city, and that the projects ability to drive footfall into the local area will be beneficial for the community and economic development of Belfast.

The scale and breadth of support for the project is evident from the letters of support and engagement detailed in Appendix B.

As well as grassroots support the project has attracted celebrity backing from Jamie Dornan (actor), Snow Patrol (band), Maire Jones (Stones in his Pockets playwright) and Neil Jordan (Bafta winning film director), among others. This has served to simultaneously endorse the cultural value of the building, raise the profile of the project and expand private fundraising opportunities.

Do you have statutory responsibility for the delivery of all aspects of the bid?


Provide evidence of the local challenges or barriers to growth and context that the bid is seeking to respond to

Supporting information in Appendix C The Case for Investment.

Economic challenges

The majority of wards in the Strand’s immediate catchment face significant problems in terms of multiple deprivation. The Strand is located within Island ward which is within the top 10 per cent of most deprived wards in NI in relation to the quality of the Living Environment. 39.2 per cent of Island’s children live in poverty compared with a NI average of 23.1 per cent.

Island ward is made up of two Super Output Areas (SOAs). Island 1 SOA is in the worst 10 per cent of SOAs in NI for overall Health Deprivation and Disability, Preventable Deaths (excluding Suicide), and Long-Term Health Problems or Disability; and in the worst 2 per cent of SOAs for Emergency Admissions and Low Birth Weight babies.


Educational under-attainment is a constituency-wide issue which has been well documented (see Appendix C) both by government and independent academics. Evidence points toward barriers being social challenges and a lack of value attributed to education in poorer areas rather than quality of schooling and resources. The planned Creative Learning Studios and professional performing space will facilitate hosting school visits and running extra- curricular programmes.


Without restoration of the Strand, there is no dedicated cultural venue in East Belfast. Indeed, the area would also lose its only cinema.

This part of the city has a forgotten rich cultural and creative history from linen, rope-making and ship building in its industrial past, it has limited awareness and pride in the wealth of internationally acclaimed east Belfast writers, musicians and performers, past and present. NISRA statistics (appendix C) illustrate East Belfast has disproportionately high levels of disability claimants and seniors, whilst ACNI’s Barriers to disabled people’s participation in and access to the arts in NI 2007 evidenced comparative low engagement from these audience segments – this project is designed to address the specific needs of these groups.

Heritage and perception of place

Several long-term vacant shop premises are immediately across the road from the Strand, projecting an image of decline, reinforcing the poor living environment in the area. There is huge potential to capitalise on the buildings unique heritage as a means to develop pride of place, be a catalyst for further local investment and increase residents’ aspirations.

Preserving an iconic building which has long served the local population in a positive and inclusive manner adds further social value to this project.

The cost of preserving and re-animating this asset as arts venue is prohibitive to commercial investors (see Appendix M).

There is evident potential to attract national and international artists and events.

Like many parts of Belfast, the east has seen a notable diversification of residents in terms of religious and political background (see Appendix D for census map). This places greater importance on developing inclusive shared cultural spaces

Environmental impact

Essential services in the building are in poor state of repair. Some windows are broken and there is no insulation in walls or roof. Significant improvements also need to be made to the buildings carbon footprint.

Explain why Government investment is needed (what is the market failure)

As highlighted above, in 2014, an arts strategy was commissioned by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and East Belfast Partnership to address the image of east Belfast as a “cultural desert”. The East Belfast Arts Strategy highlighted the facts that:

  • there is no theatre or dedicated arts centre in East Belfast, severely restricting the artistic and cultural activities that can be delivered for the area; and
  • despite having a population of almost 100,000 only 4 per cent of Belfast’s arts budget goes into East Belfast.

Arts infrastructure is a public good which provides many documented non-market values and external economic and social benefits. However, they do not command an income or Return on Investment sufficient to incentivise the private sector to deliver these facilities.

The Strand has served the population of East Belfast as an iconic cinema for 87 years. The current building is, however, in very poor physical condition, has no disabled access, sound bleed from one space to another, and there are intermittent issues with even basic services (heating and drainage). There is no possibility that these issues can be resolved by the commercial market - a small 4-screen cinema serving a high-deprivation audience will not generate a sufficient financial return to repay investors. Without a major intervention, the building will be forced to close, bringing an end to the film and arts activities which have been piloted over recent years for the betterment of the east Belfast community.

The building is privately owned and is not currently listed. The landlord agreed to a short-term lease at a nominal rent to enable the meanwhile use as an arts centre. Since the arts centre has been established, two neighbouring leisure properties (dating from the 1930’s and 40’s) have been sold and demolished for social housing. The site value of the Strand is evidently higher as a development site than as a picturehouse or arts centre. With input from BCC and Heritage Fund an Agreement to Lease has been agreed with the Landlord for 25 years (the full useful life of the refurbished building) at market rent from the commencement date of refurbishment works (see Appendix I for valuation).

There are several features which make this an ideal opportunity to address the artistic and cultural needs of the people of east Belfast:

  • The existence of a unique heritage art deco building, which has a long history of serving the entertainment needs of the diverse population of east Belfast (too many theatres and arts centres are seen as forbidding places for working class communities).
  • The location of the building in a safe cross-community space, at the nexus between working-class and middle-class communities in east Belfast.
  • A prolonged period of piloted activity has evidenced need for an artistic and cultural venue in the area and demonstrated the potential long-term sustainability of the Strand, given its mixed heritage, film and mixed artform programme and diversity of income streams that go with this.
  • The need to provide opportunities for people to engage in learning, creativity,
  • social activities, to improve people’s mental health and wellbeing coming out of two years of lockdown as a result of Covid-19.
  • The danger of the existing building closing and being sold as a development site and this heritage community asset being lost for good.

Explain what you are proposing to invest in and why the proposed interventions in the bid will address those challenges and barriers

We are proposing to restore and renovate the dilapidated art deco heritage building, which is the last remaining picturehouse in Northern Ireland, at 152-156 Holywood Road BT4 1NY. We are aiming to create core arts infrastructure which will facilitate a wide range of artistic, cultural, educational and community activities as a multi-functional arts centre. The project will provide interactive interpretive heritage displays to provide a ‘living museum’ experience for all visitors. We will also ensure full accessibility and significantly improve the buildings carbon footprint.

The following proposed interventions will address those challenges and barriers evidenced in part above.

Economic challenge

The project will be a catalyst for economic growth in the area:

  • Generating a direct positive impact on residential and commercial property values in the immediate locality
  • Increasing footfall and spend in the local area, attracting visitors
  • Employing 12.5 FTE staff and commissioning 1,000 artists annually (equating to 3.8 FTE)
  • Providing staff training and career progression plans
  • Promoting further regeneration of the area, attracting SME’s to vacant retail units


The new venue will provide a programme of activity which includes:

  • Financially accessible skills development courses for all ages (film making, set design, theatre, fine art, crafts and more);
  • Events which signpost people to careers in the creative industries and highlighting local people achieving global success;
  • Ensuring every visit is an education in picturehouse heritage (interpretive design throughout);
  • Bespoke education packs and regular school visits
  • Financially accessible cultural and fun family events designed to demonstrate how parents and guardians can support primary-aged kids education (piloted Minors Club proving successful)


  • Create parity of arts facilities across the city, addressing the gap identified in the Arts Strategy for East Belfast;
  • Attract touring theatre and music, and festivals to Belfast, and expand opportunities for local artists and community groups
  • The subsequent programme of activity the venue delivers will provide events or activities which:
    • Support the expanding senior population;
    • Improve the mental health and wellbeing of patrons;
    • Promote good relations and social cohesion.

Heritage and perception of place

  • Save a unique heritage building and utilise it to preserve an important part of NI’s social history
  • Retain a landmark building, considered a community asset, in an otherwise rapidly changing landscape of social housing developments and empty retail units


  • Address shortcomings of the existing building with costly environmental outputs - unreliable services, lack of insulation, leaks and damp, poor drainage, and incorporate renewable energy sources
  • Good active transport links and visibility. Introduction of a pricing structure which incentivises active transport modes

During project development the following options were investigated as a means to address the need for intervention to create arts facilities for east Belfast:

  1. Do minimum works required for continued operation of the Strand;
  2. Full refurbishment of Strand, and;
  3. Secure alternative site and build new arts centre.

‘Do nothing’ was not an option considered as it was apparent from building surveys this would result in immanent closure of the Strand and it had been determined that arts facilities were required.

A business case demonstrated the substantial advantages of renovating the old heritage cinema with established goodwill, over developing a new modern arts centre on an alternative site. As well as having the added cultural and educational value of preserving a heritage building and an important part of the cities social history, the Strand occupies a prominent site and is well positioned to serve its adjacent high deprivation catchment. Furthermore, being in immediate need of intervention and having an established operational and governance structure this option was considerably lower risk in terms of deliverability and sustainability.

How will you deliver the outputs and confirm how results are likely to flow from the interventions?

The project is designed around a Theory of Change model (appended below) which provides a clear summary of the process by which the required inputs and interventions will address the challenges highlighted above and deliver favourable outcomes in line with national, local and sectoral policies and objectives.


The following key inputs are required to deliver the project:

  • £4.094m LUF funding
  • £1.701m match funding from BCC, NLHF, SAC, Trusts and public gifting
  • Project Board, Design team and consultants
  • Building firm and sub-contractors
  • Strand Arts Centre Management and Trustees


These inputs will enable the delivery of the following activities from 2022 to 2025:

  • Capital works preserving and renovating heritage building
  • Strategic and operational planning for new venue
  • Design and planning completed
  • Construction procurement
  • Snagging completed
  • Fundraising and continued community engagement


The activities will result in a wide range of outputs in line with Levelling Up’s

Intervention Framework:

  • Dilapidated and heritage building renovated – 2375 square metres dilapidated heritage building with cultural, education and community facilities
  • Public amenities, facilities created or improved – improfoyer; creation of picturehouse exhibition; full disability access and services
  • Cultural space improved - arts centre for East Belfast; creation of two theatres with unique heritage features and multi-functional set-up and changing room facilities
  • Educational space created - two new creative learning spaces
  • Community centre space - activities targeting the needs of seniors, disabled, poor and marginalised; workshop space for use by community groups
  • Hospitality space created - new café and bar;


Outputs lead to the following quantifiable LUF outcomes and broader social and economic impact outcomes in line with NI Executive’s Programme for Government:

  • LUF outcomes include changing: Footfall; Productivity and pay; Vacancy rates; Perceptions of place; Consumer spending; Number of students completing FE and HE courses; Improved mental health of patrons and residents
  • Increased employment - 12.5 FTE employees; 3.8 FTE artists employed
  • Increased skills, education and wellbeing - 20,800 creative learning participants; Audience of 6,048 for theatre and music; 85,785 annual visitors experience a ‘living museum’; 117 community groups using SAC annually (including 20 schools)
  • Improved carbon footprint of building

Broader outcomes included:

  • Increased engagement in arts through improved equality of opportunity
  • Quality creative activities which resonate with local residents and inspire pride
  • Skills development increasing educational and employment aspirations
  • Safe shared inclusive space serving a diverse audience
  • Reduced isolation of seniors and hard to reach
  • Reduced crime and ASB rates
  • East Belfast is a place where people want to live, work or visit - increased residential and commercial property values in immediate area.

The project's robust Logic Model maps quantifiable outputs required to meet LUF and NI Programme for Government outcomes and other sectorial policy priorities.

Heritage Fund have funded a professional evaluator who will gather and report on the Logic Models data sets.

Set out how other public and private funding will be leveraged as part of the intervention

Levelling-up funding will be the dominant and most critical piece of funding in a broad funding package which will enable the construction and delivery phase of the project to commence.

The Strand Arts Centre project has been under development for some time. To date over £136,000 has been committed toward design and development work covering RIBA Stages 1 and 2 together with a planning application. RIBA stage 3 is currently underway. Prior to this additional investment was made in needs appraisals and feasibility studies.

Funding secured to date has come from Belfast City Council, Department for Communities, Arts Council NI, National Lottery Heritage Fund, Strand Arts Centre, Swire Charitable Trust and Steel charitable trust, and private gifts.

In securing a grant from ‘Levelling up’, the project will be able to apply for the second stage of its National Lottery Heritage Fund grant. The project has received an initial investment from NLHF of £254,931 (£107,000 of which is toward capital costs). A further £845,096 of funding has been outlined for the construction and delivery phase (£503,000 toward construction costs, the rest for developing the living museum heritage offer). This funding cannot be applied for until 80 per cent of total project costs are in place.

Belfast City Council plan to commit a further £350,000 toward the project on receipt of Levelling up Funding and progression to construction stage.

A number of trusts and foundations approached to date have requested to be contacted again at a later stage in the development process when there is less risk around delivery timeframes and costs, or because they have a particular interest in funding specific items such as theatre fit-out. As the catalyst for commencing RIBA stage 4 (procurement) and 5 (construction), Levelling up funding will enable the project to leverage funding from these funds. Garfield Weston is the largest of these: they have indicated that an application for £200k at project delivery stage would meet their budget. Ulster Garden Villages have offered £60k toward fit-out costs, only to be released at that stage. Foyle Foundation have also indicated they would be prepared to provide ‘late-stage support’.

Finally, the venue operator Strand Arts Centre, have recently commenced a ‘name a seat’ public fundraising campaign. Fundraising research shows that public gifting campaigns are most successful when there is a clear and achievable finish-line in sight. Having Levelling-up funding in place will enable the organisation to share a definitive construction timeline and a fixed achievable fundraising target with its supporters, which no doubt will inspire further financial support from the local community.

Overall, £1,701,000 (29 per cent) of the total project cost will be leveraged from public and private funders to match the Levelling Up Fund grant.

See Appendix H for evidence of funding secured to date and fundraising strategy for unsecured funding.

Explain how your bid aligns to and supports relevant local strategies and local objectives for investment, improving infrastructure and levelling up

The project will contribute to the following outcomes from NI Executive’s

Programme for Government:

  • 3 - We have a more equal society.
  • 5 - We are an innovative, creative society, where people can fulfill their potential.
  • 7 - We have a safe community where we respect the law and each other.
  • 8 - We care for others and we help those in need.
  • 9 - We are a shared, welcoming and confident society that respects diversity.
  • 10 - We have created a place where people want to live and work to visit and invest.
  • 12 - We give our children and young people the best start in life.

It also supports the aims of Department for Communities Active Ageing

Strategy 2016-2021 and Inclusion in the Arts of Working Class Communities 2016.

It delivers on Arts Council of NI’s (ACNI) Ambitions for the Arts strategy and Inspire, Connect, Lead Strategic Framework objectives by making “excellent art accessible” and “growing engagement in the arts, particularly Section 75 groups” and addresses actions identified in ACNI’s Barriers to disabled people’s participation in and access to the arts in NI 2007.

Strand Arts Centre was established with support from the ACNI to meet the East Belfast Arts Strategy recommendation for arts provision in the area, the strategy highlighted the decaying building as an opportunity to address this need.

Belfast City Council (BCC) have taken the role of lead delivery partner for this project because it closely aligns with the values and priorities of the Council’s The Belfast Agenda (the city’s community plan), together with its cultural strategy ‘A City Imagining’ and tourism strategy ‘Make yourself at Home’.

BCC recognise culture and arts make a vital contribution to the city helping to improve quality of life, drive the economy and make Belfast a shared, welcoming and proud city. Belfast gets a strong return on funding of arts and heritage, returning approximately £8 for the city for every £1 of our investment. This investment helps engage with over 170,000 participants, reach audiences of four million and provide around 8,000 employment opportunities for artists each year. This project will make a notable contribution toward this baseline and future targets.

This project is also aligned BCC’s tourism ambitions of increasing the value of tourism, enhancing and enriching the visitor experience, and supporting tourism development across the city’s neighbourhoods. Our tourism strategy builds on Belfast’s unique appeal and story, its character, its culture and its people. We will maximise the offer of our natural and built heritage and nurture creative talent and festivals. We will harness the diversity of our city as a strength in our cultural offer.

The Inner East Belfast Neighbourhood Renewal Action Plan and the Holywood Arches Sustainable Development Plan, created to help address the need for regeneration in the area, both support the refurbishment of the Strand as a regeneration project.

Explain how the bid aligns to and supports the UK Government policy objectives

The DCMS Culture White Paper (2016) promotes the historic built environment as a unique asset which can drive wider regeneration, business growth and prosperity. It encourages the creation of new cultural spaces.

The MHCLG Communities Framework (2019) highlighting the importance of shared community spaces and prosperity.

The commitments set out in NI Executives Programme for Government, which are consistent with the ambitions of the Levelling Up agenda and desire to improve the lives of the people of NI by increasing tangible and intangible capital. This Bid will promote the various types of capital deemed crucial to Levelling Up across the UK:

Physical capital - saving and renovating one of the cities key heritage assets, pioneering the physical regeneration of a neglected area and making it a much more attractive for residents, visitors, tourists and businesses. Economic Value of Heritage (Fujiwara, 2018) evidences an increase in property values in the immediate proximity of heritage assets and a quantifiable wellbeing gain to those living in proximity, even when they are non- attendees. Attracting tourists and cultural spend to the area; and encouraging businesses to invest in the area.

Social Capital - bringing people together, particularly important post-Covid. Creative learning workshops, community activities and cultural events, will increase social infrastructure, and build a more active, connected and engaged community. WHO report (Francurt and Finn, 2019) evidences a positive co- relation between engagement in group artistic and cultural activities and improved physical and mental health.

Human capital - creative learning workshops will increase the stock of knowledge, skills and competencies; programme outcomes will be improved wellbeing of patrons and local residents

Intangible Capital - staff training, development of freelance artists and pioneering programming will build cultural leaders and establish innovative practices in the third sector.

Institutional Capital - The Strand will be a unique business model in the NI creative sector in terms of its mix of heritage, film and art, and the variety of income streams these produce. The organisation has established strong 3rd sector and community partnerships and will help strengthen the social fabric of the area, and the cultural and heritage sectors. Building local agency, capacity and capability.

Clean Growth Strategy and Net Zero goals - The design team have committed to a sustainability statement underpinned by RIBA Sustainable Outcomes and the principles of the new Theatre Green Book designed to ensure the cultural sector works toward the Net Zero emissions goal for 2050. Adapting and retro- fitting an existing building is a more environmentally sustainable approach than a new build. A “fabric first approach” (increased efficiency of built fabric to avoid unnecessary mechanical and electrical services services) has been adopted, renewable energy sources incorporated and a Building Management System developed to maximise efficiencies at operational stage.

The venue is accessible via active travel modes (walking, cycling, public transport) and use of these will be incentivised by the Strand at operational stage, supporting Department for Infrastructures' Active and Sustainable Transport Policy.

Alignment and support for existing investments

Where applicable explain how the bid complements or aligns to and supports existing and planned investments in the same locality

This project complements the Belfast Region City Deal (BRCD) signed in December 2021, £850m investment between central and local government and local partners. Focus areas for identified projects are: building digital and innovation capability; boosting tourism; investment in infrastructure; employability and skills. A number of projects funded involve innovation with in film production, VR and AI – the Strand tells a contrasting and complementary story of the early days of film. The flagship tourism project in BRCD is a city centre tourism attraction harmonising with Strand by incorporating a modern film centre and promoting our city as a home of film.

BCC and TourismNI recognise clusters are required to attract neighbourhood tourism and generate the full benefits of regeneration. In a bid to drive cultural tourism and much needed regeneration in east Belfast, CS Lewis Square and Visitors’ Centre (0.6 miles from the Strand) was developed in 2016. The next stage in this cluster will be the renovation of the Strand and Templemore Baths (1 mile from the Strand).

See Appendix C Case for Investment for more detail.

Confirm which Levelling Up White Paper Missions your project contributes to

Select Levelling Up White Paper Missions (pages 120 and 121)

  • Wellbeing
  • Pride in Place

Write a short sentence to demonstrate how your bid contributes to the Mission(s)

The Strand bid most strongly supports the following two Levelling Up Missions:

  • “Restore a sense of community, local pride and belonging, especially in those places where they have been lost”, in particular the “Pride in Place”.
  • Successful delivery of this bid will increase people’s satisfaction with east Belfast, which has suffered from a poor reputation, enable them to celebrate local talent, and increase their engagement in local arts, culture and community in the area.
  • “Spread opportunities and improve public services, especially in those places where they are weakest”, in particularly “Wellbeing”. Coming out of more than two years of Covid-19, where people have been isolated and often cut-off from others, successful delivery of this bid will spread and improve opportunities for attending and participating in artistic, cultural and educational programmes and activities, and through this participation, improve health (physical and mental) and wellbeing in east Belfast.

Provide up to date evidence to demonstrate the scale and significance of local problems and issues

Economic challenges

According to NISRA (link opens in a new window), Island ward, in which the Strand is located, is within the worst 10 per cent deprived wards in NI in terms of quality of the Living Environment, and with a child poverty of 39.2 per cent (NI average of 23.1 per cent).

Many SOAs surrounding the Strand face serious problems in terms of multiple deprivation, particularly Mount one and two, (which are within the worst 10 per cent of SOAs in NI for overall Health Deprivation or Disability), and Ballymacarrett one, two and three. (within the worst 6 per cent).


Educational under-attainment in east Belfast is well documented (see Appendix C). Mount is in the worst 1 per cent of wards in NI for education, skills and training; Ballymacarrett 3 in the worst 2 per cent; and Island 1 in the worst 5 per cent. The planned creative learning studios and professional performing space will promote learning by hosting school visits and extra-curricular learning programmes.

Without restoration of Strand, unlike all other parts of Belfast, there will still be no dedicated arts centre in the east Belfast constituency, (page 21, Appendix C, Report on Arts Funding). East Belfast has a forgotten rich creative history with many internationally-acclaimed artists. NI Assembly Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure 2016 Report on Inclusion in the Arts of Working Class Communities found: “East Belfast had less arts infrastructure and activity than other parts of the city”.

It also reported arts attendance of 55 per cent for older people and 60 per cent for those with disability (compared to 86 per cent for the general population). NISRA shows higher

than average levels of disability claimants and seniors in east Belfast. ACNI’s Action Plan on Disability 2019-2024 found that “in addition to physical barriers, disabled people are much less likely to participate and work in cultural activities because of negative attitudes and prejudice, inflexible ways of working and exclusion from education”.

Heritage and perception of place

Despite comparatively low rents, there are several long-term vacant shop premises opposite the Strand, reinforcing the area’s poor living environment.

All other 54 art deco picturehouses in Belfast have been demolished or rendered unrecognisable, evidencing that the cost of preserving such cultural assets is commercially prohibitive.

Local estate agents have reported average house prices in the area are notably below that of the NI average (appendix M, Explanatory note on calculation of BCR)). report the projects postcode’s ‘Crime and Anti-social behaviour ranking as 83.5, where 0 is the lowest ranked crime rate in the UK and 100 is the highest.

Significant diversification in the local population over recent decades (Appendix D) has caused unrest.

Health and wellbeing

Island 1 SOA is in the worst 10 per cent of SOAs in NI for: overall Health Deprivation and Disability, Preventable Deaths, and Long-Term Health Problems or  Disability; and the worst 2 per cent of SOAs for Emergency Admissions, and Low Birth Weight babies.

Environmental impact

Condition Survey (Appendix N) reports essential services in a poor state of repair, damp and no insulation in walls or roof. Current energy bills also demonstrate a very inefficient building with high carbon footprint.

Demonstrate the quality assurance of data analysis and evidence for explaining the scale and significance of local problems and issues

Evidence has been drawn from a range of reputable sources to create a robust understanding of challenges for the area and the effectiveness of proposed interventions to meet need and gaps in existing provision. Both secondary source data and primary (site and use specific) research and studies and box-office evidence have informed assumptions made. We used the most up-to-date publications available for all data analysis in this appraisal.

Research, evidencing need and challenges:

  • The NI government’s NISRA statistics of Multiple Deprivation (link opens in new window):
    • At NI level
    • Belfast East constituency level
    • Neighbourhood Regeneration Area
    • Ward level
    • Super Output Area level
  • NI House Price Index, 2022 and expert opinion from Colliers Residential Property Agents
  • reports crime rates per postcode relative to UK averages and categories of crime
  • Eastside Learning Framework 2015-2025

Primary evidence demonstrating need and demand for cultural tourism offer includes (more details in Appendix B Stakeholder Engagement and Support):

  • East Belfast Arts Strategy, Arts Council NI, 2014
  • NITB Tourism Performance Statistics
  • Options Appraisal and Business Case by Jettora Consulting and SnowWater (updated March 2022)
  • Valuation from CBRE demonstrating an arts centre is an non-market use for this site and alternative use, such as, demolition of the period building is the economically favourable option (Appendix I)
  • Strand Arts Centre box office reports, 2015-2022; Audience and non-attendees survey, 2018; Culture and Heritage focus groups , 2022
  • Strand Arts Centre, review of arts funding (2019-2020) and arts provision across the city.

To ensure robustness, multiple sources of information have been reviewed to triangulate data and ensure it supports shared conclusions.

The NISRA data sources provide a clear picture of the main socio-economic issues facing east Belfast, evidencing the need for levelling up and highlighting core beneficiary segments (namely seniors, disabled, those living in poverty and children). The Strand’s consultation with stakeholders, such as care homes, community centres, and schools, substantiate the government data and provide further contextual details of local challenges.

Analysis of data from Arts Council NI demonstrates the extent to which the arts facilities and funding is comparatively poor for this part of the city. Primary evidence gathered by SnowWater and letters of support from stakeholders evidence overwhelming demand for preserving this heritage building and bringing quality cultural and creative events to the area.

There is evident robustness and unbiasedness of statutory data sets, as well as bespoke research undertaken by specialist organisations including SnowWater (specialists in arts sector organisational development), Jettora (NI), Savills (UK) economists. And verification of assumptions with independent experts, including Arts Council NI, Colliers estate agents, AECOM project management.

Evidence provided by the Strand has been gathered using digital technology (their box office system or survey monkey) and subsequently is very transparent in nature and wholly relevant. Years of extensive engagement and pilot programming informing this proposed project is extremely valuable and has undoubtedly de-risked the bid.

Demonstrate that the data and evidence supplied is appropriate to the area of influence of the interventions

This bid aims to provide parity of arts infrastructure for the east of the city and a creative programme which meets the high social and economic need within the immediate catchment. Nevertheless cultural benefits will be felt across all Northern Ireland given the unique cultural heritage – ‘a home for NI’s picturehouse past and the social and industrial evolution of cinema going’. Interactive displays, a digital film archive, oral histories and collections woven throughout the customer journey will ensure every visit is educational and up-lifting.

Data evidencing need and challenges has been assessed at SRO or ward level reflecting on the Strand’s immediate (walkable) catchment area.

Data evidencing demand and potential impact has come in part from piloted work by Strand during its ‘meanwhile use’ and benchmarked from other Northern Irish and British arts venues (see Needs Appraisal, Appendix E), with adjustments for regional scale.

When assessing the employment and economic impact of the proposals on the local economy, consideration has been given to the unsustainable nature of

the Strand building in its current dilapidated state, as well as property values in the immediate area (500m catchment) of the site.

It is crucial there is no double counting in the assessment of benefits – someone attending a theatre performance may also receive benefits relating to engagement in heritage or educational benefits, but only one Willingness To Pay metric has been applied to each visit.

Provide analysis and evidence to demonstrate how the proposal will address existing or anticipated future problems

For supporting information please refer to Appendix Theory of Change in Section 6.

This summarises key local challenges, salient interventions identified to address them, and some forecast quantifiable impacts. Note: many interventions and impacts are intertwined, for example, improved employment prospects will also have wellbeing benefits.

For more detail on the assumptions made to estimate quantum of artistic activity and engagement please see Appendix F Business Case, and Appendix B. Considerable research and pilot activity has informed these figures.

Economic challenges

  • Comparatively low house prices and rents; longterm vacant premise in immediate area
  • High levels of poverty, particularly children living in poverty
  • Low education attainment

Economic interventions

  • Regeneration of prominent landmark building and public realm in immediate vicinity
  • Creation of 12.5 FTE permanent jobs and 3.8 FTE artists contracted annually (see full Business case appendix F)
  • 20,800 creative learning participants; 117 community groups using SAC annually (including 20 schools);
  • Discounted ticket scheme for unwaged and those who travel by foot or bike (benefiting immediate catchment in high deprivation areas)

Economic impact

  • Increased land values in immediate vicinity – (see appendix N) 0.5 per cent increase on residential and 2 per cent increase on commercial property over 5 years
  • Labour Supply Impact – assumed 5 per cent (0.6) the 12.5 jobs go to new entrants, 40 per cent of salary is displaced to welfare benefits. Gross Value Added to local economy from increased labour is assessed over 10 years.
  • 1,000 one-day contracts to artists by 2025, equating to 3.8 FTE jobs. No financial consideration in bid BCR for this, but income and productivity benefits will be monitored.
  • 150 employed in construction works (no economic consideration in bid for this)
  • 20 school partnerships; 60 events p.a. complementing curriculum delivered to 800 children annually; interactive educational heritage info. freely accessible to all 106,000 visitors
  • 120 unwaged tickets sold p.a.
  • 5 per cent out-of-state visitors and £15 a visit additional spend in local area (no economic consideration in bid for this)

Cultural challenges

  • Last remaining picturehouse in NI and not commercially viable
  • Lack of arts infrastructure in area
  • Comparatively low arts engagement
  • Few shared areligious apolitical spaces in area
  • High levels of disability and seniors
  • High level of preventable deaths, including suicide

Cultural interventions

  • East Belfast has an arts centre
  • A programme of quality performances and creative learning activities
  • Attracting national and international events to area
  • Fully accessible design and staff appropriately trained
  • Programme activities designed to address social needs (education; wellbeing; inclusion)

Cultural impacts

  • 106,000 patrons attending arts and heritage events in East Belfast annually from 2025; 117 community organisations using the facilities; host 25 festival’s annually; support 1,000 artists annually
  • Quantified Value of Culture and Heritage to Visitors – WTP benefit transfer
  • from Arts Council England’s Regional Galleries and Theatres Benefits Transfer
  • Report, £5.40, multiplied by forecast patrons less 10 per cent (95,000) over 10 years.
  • Quantified Value of Culture and Heritage to local residents – WTP multiplied by estimate residents in immediate area (500m) (identified using CoStar) over 10 years.

Heritage and perception of place challenges

  • Threat of loss of a period building (recent loss of two former leisure sites adjacent)
  • Limited cultural tourism offer in area
  • Numerous vacant premises in immediate area
  • Comparative high levels of crime and anti-social behaviour

Heritage and place interventions

  • All 106,000 annual visitors experience a ‘living museum’ of NI’s picturehouses
  • CCTV round building and open long hours (9am to 11pm) 362 days per year

Heritage and place impacts

  • Improved amenities in area – Amenity Benefits calculation using MHCLG’s valuation figures for 500m radius of the site over 30 years as per guidelines. Placing £12,500 NPV on the benefit to local community of a public venue providing a range of services and faculties
  • Reduced crime rates – Crime Reduction calculation, a reduction in crime of 10 per cent but displace of this by 75 per cent, equating to nine fewer incidents a year over 10 years

Environmental challenge

  • Dilapidated historic budling, low energy efficiency

Environmental interventions

  • Installation of renewable energy sources and insulation; reduction in dependency on fossil fuels.
  • Operationally commit to the Theatre Green Book to ensure environmental best practice

Environmental impacts

  • Achieve BREEAM rating of ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ – reflecting an energy efficient, high quality building
  • Energy bills remain at same level as benchmark overheads in spite of building being open considerably longer hours and current derelict areas being brought back into use.

Describe the robustness of the analysis and evidence supplied such as the forecasting assumptions, methodology and model outputs

Different models have been used to forecast different aspects of the bid:

  • Detailed design - Cost estimates to RIBA Stage 2 by Skope quantity surveyor’s (updated June 2022), informed by numerous surveys and input provided by Integrated Consultancy Team. Risks have been identified and 8 per cent contingency applied. Environmental Impact forecasts are informed by architects and mechanical and electrical services design.
  • Options Appraisal and Business Case undertaken by Jettora and SnowWater (updated March 2022). The appraisal followed the principles of NI Guide to Expenditure and Appraisal Evaluation (NIGEAE).

All forecasts relating to number of activities and beneficiaries, visitor spend, revenues and overheads have been drawn from the Business Case. Extensive primary research was undertaken by independent consultants together with reviews of footfall and revenue trends by completed comparable venues. Strand’s current level of activity also provided a robust benchmark. Forecasts gave consideration and deliberation to: benchmark footfall; established stakeholder relationships and programme impacts; the sites current limitations in terms of accessibility and poor facilities; evidence of demand from independent surveys and stakeholder feedback; data from established venues with comparable facilities and programming to that which is aspired; the fact that there will be a notable increase in the organisations trading hours. Sensitivity analysis was undertaken and the economic benefit forecast allows 10 per cent contingency on total forecast visitors. For detailed assumptions and evidence see appendix F Business Case.

  • Cost Benefits Analysis model (undertaken in June 2022) by Savills UK. The methodology follows the best practice outlined in the HM Treasury Green Book and DLUHC Appraisal Guidance.
  • Land Value Uplift calculations used valuation figures provided by professional property surveyors, CBRE and Colliers. The impact area was identified with consideration to various case studies referenced in Transport for London (TfL) Land Value Uplift report, 2017 Annex 7, and applying a conservative estimate meaning the area of influence is a comfortable walk and the vast majority of properties are visible from the Strand
  • Value of Culture and Heritage - Leading sectorial economic research on WTP (commissioned by Arts Council England, listed in the Culture Heritage Capital Evidence Bank) informed the WTP Benefit transfer method. Weighted adjustments made with consideration to this projects geographic location, the socio-economics of its catchment, it scale and reach, and established audience and processes, relative to the study sites, established a WTP of £5.40. The multiplier for forecast beneficiaries came from evidence in the robust Business Case.
  • Labour Supply impacts – Used the DLUHC Future High Street Fund model. The Business Case identified number of employees, Green Book conservative estimates for new entrants. ONS data 2018 identified gross median pay, WebTAG estimates informed assumed displacement and benefit period.
  • Amenity Benefits – MHCLG 2016 Appraisal Guide provided estimate value for amenity benefits. The area of impact is small and subsequently so is the forecast financial benefit.
  • Crime Reduction Benefits – used national crime statistics for the subject postcode, applied a conservative estimate for reduction and a high level of displacement to that forecasting a small financial benefit.

Explain how the economic costs of the bid have been calculated, including the whole life costs

The costs in the financial case (see Deliverability section and appendix M) for this bid have been adjusted for inflation at 8 per cent for 2022-2023, 5 per cent for 2023-2024 and 2 per cent per annum for 2024-2025 onwards. All bid delivery costs are anticipated to occur from 2022-2023 through to 2024-2025.

We have selected the ‘real prices’ tab in the workbook for benefits on assumption that benefits will hold value with inflation and assume the workbook carries out the relevant calculations based on your assumptions.

Due consideration has been given to risks and uncertainties which could impact on costs: - age of the building, specialist nature of the end-use, rising construction costs and supply chain issues, contractor and sub-contractor relations, and more. These are reflected in a contingency of 8 per cent on construction costs. Furthermore these risks are identified, together with measures to mitigate same, in the risk register. Mitigating measures are being actively delivered - the project is well developed (in the latter stages of RIBA stage 3), and the design team has commissioned extensive surveys and investigative site works to identify challenges and inform design proposals and costs. Financial costs include a professional fee allowance to provide specialist knowledge and robust project management to support smooth and timely delivery of the project.

The calculation of OB adheres to NI DoF guidance, Supplementary Green book Guidance and the steps identified by the 2002 Mott MacDonald study. Having reviewed the classifications provided by Mott MacDonald, the heritage and theatrical elements of the capital project could be deemed a “non-standard building”, nevertheless it is an existing building which is structurally sound. Further consideration was given to the range of contributory risk factors which have been mitigated via investigative works, surveys and progress with RIBA stage 3, the Optimism Bias estimate for the purpose of this OBC is 7.08 per cent.

Scope Project quantity surveyors have advised that the whole life costs for this project should be estimated at 25 years, in line with the longterm benefits. A detailed Cashflow Forecast covering the projects 25-year life is in the Business Case, it includes assumed annual maintenance costs with additional lifecycle capex costs (self-funded) on a 5-yearly cycle. The project architects have been commissioned to provide a full Management and Maintenance Plan and budget for the operation of the building over the course of its lifecycle.

Describe how the economic benefits have been estimated

Direct Land value uplift

This assessment is calculated as the difference between the reference case land value of £720k (see valuation at Appendix I) and the intervention case value before capex calculated to be £326k (using the operational cashflow and a discount rate of 3.5 per cent) and capex of £5.795m giving a net Direct LVU of - £6.2m.

Wider land value uplift

The assumptions around wider LVU as a result of regeneration and placemaking benefits this project will bring to east Belfast have been estimated following the principles of the Treasury Green Book and the DCLG Appraisal

Guide and drawing upon a range of research in to LVU effects including Savills research and publications. A prudent condensed impact area of 500m was set. Total residential land value for the area was estimated by multiplying total number of households (identified from Census 2011 figures) by average local house price (identified using NI House Price Index and local expertise). Total retail land value for the area was estimated by multiplying total retail space by sq ft (identified from CoStar) by average rents and yields (identified using Savills valuation lists).

Forecast land value uplifts of between 0.25 per cent and 0.75 per cent for residential and 1.5 per cent and 2.5 per cent for retail were assessed. The central uplift scenario assumed an average annual LVU impact of 0.5 per cent for residential and 2.0 per cent for retail. This equates to around a 1.8 per cent increase in land values in total over 5 years. The annual average increase in values is around £2.3m. The NPV of this increase in value is around £70m.

The upper uplift scenario assumed an average annual LVU impact of 0.75 per cent for residential and 2.5 per cent for retail. This equates to around a 2.7 per cent increase in land values in total over 5 years. The annual average increase in values is around £3.5m. The NPV of this increase in value is around £11.6m.

We consider the central uplift scenario to be the most likely outcome of the three scenarios with an NPV of £7.8m.

Value of Culture and Heritage to Visitors

With reference to ‘Arts Council England Regional Galleries and Theatres Benefit Transfer Report’, Symmetrica, 2020, pp 35-49, a Willingness to Pay (WTP) value of £5.40 per visitor has been assumed. In identifying the WTP benefit transfer considerations were made as to the scale, regional significance and quality of programming forecast for the proposed project relative to that of the contingent case studies. WTP is multiplied by total forecast visitors of 95,000. Forecast footfall taken from the Option Appraisal and Business Case for Arts Infrastructure in East Belfast. Any displacement effects are already assumed to have been taken into account in the calculations.

Over 25 years the NPV of this benefit amounts to £6.2m.

Labour Supply Impacts

This follows the approach set up by DLUHC for the Future High-Street Fund. It estimates the welfare impact of new labour market entrants. The projects will create 12.5 FTE new jobs, of which 5 per cent are assumed to be taken up by new entrants. 5 per cent is a conservative estimate according to the Green Book, broadly in line with Northern Ireland’s unemployment rate (2.6 per cent) but local unemployment is higher. There will be an estimated 0.6 new entrants to the labour market. 2018 ONS data gives Belfast average median gross annual pay per worker of £58,631. Based on WebTAG estimates, 40 per cent of the GVA is transferred to welfare benefits.

Over 10 years, the NPV of this benefit amounts to £116,000.

Amenity Benefits

The Package includes 500 sqm of public realm improvements (pedestrian and open spaces) to the land immediately adjacent to the building which will be focal point for the Belmont Road high street as well as being visually prominent to high passing traffic. MHCLG’s 2016 Appraisal Guide estimates annual amenity benefits amount to £13,392 per hectare, or £15,406 in 2022 prices. With a duration of 25 years, starting in 2025, the Bid’s amenity benefits would have a NPV of £11,900.

Crime Reduction Benefits

Recorded criminal incidents over the last 12 months within 500m of the Strand Arts Centre are 355 (see appendix C for detailed breakdown from Crime Statistics UK). Increased footfall and supervision in the area is anticipated to help with crime reduction. The monetary cost of crime is estimated at £1,244.

A reduction in crime of 10 per cent and a displacement of 75 per cent assume that there would be 9 fewer criminal incident per year (reducing the additionality of this benefit to 25 per cent in the BCR calculation). Over 10 years this yields a Net Present Value of £86,000.

Provide a summary of the overall Value for Money of the proposal

We have calculated the BCR using the workbook. We have included the following elements in estimation of benefits:

  • Direct Land Value Uplift
  • Wider Land Value Uplift (LVU)
  • Value of Culture and Heritage to Visitors
  • Value of Culture and Heritage to Residents
  • Value of Labour Supply Impacts
  • Value of Crime Reduction
  • Value of Improved Amenities

Further details of the justification of and calculation of these benefits are provided in Appendix M. As all of these benefits are recognised benefits used in various government guidance documents they are included in the Initial BCR.

The workbook gives an Initial BCR for the LVU approach of 2.29.

As an alternative to use of Wider LVU we have used the workbook to calculate BCR using an estimate of GVA impacts instead of Wider LVU impacts. Our Theory of Change sets out the relationship between these two measures. For leisure and culture type attractions it can be argued that a GVA approach is more appropriate as it is a more direct measure of impacts of the proposals, and the uncertainties over displacement effects while still remaining compare with a range of uncertainties involved in the additional steps with the LVU approach. We have considered an Initial BCR focusing solely upon the additional revenue of the Strand Arts Centre and an Adjusted BCR allowing for an estimate of out of state tourist expenditure. This estimate is probably an under-estimate of benefits as the centre is likely to stimulate a range of spend in the local economy from state visitors as well.

The workbook gives an Initial BCR for the GVA approach of 1.86 and an Adjusted BCR of 2.61. The Initial BCR is clearly an under-estimate as it does not allow for the associated increase in spend in the local economy from visitors linking trips and spending money in local restaurants, bars and shops.

Have you estimated a Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR)?


Estimated Benefit Cost Ratios

  • InitiaBCR: 2.29
  • AdjusteBCR: 2.29

Describe the non-monetised impacts the bid will have and provide a summary of how these have been assessed

Levelling up access to the arts across our city – providing part of our city with much needed infrastructure and subsequently increasing the opportunity for engagement and participation in the arts, with particular focus on the immediate catchment, an area with notable challenges.

Creating a highly accessible building both physically and socially – film being the most accessible art form, plus community and stakeholder partnerships and a ticketing proposals which ensure access for all. An operational plan (and pilot) which demonstrates potential for large scale, quality engagement which will deliver long-term societal changing benefits.

Establishing a strong sense of place and being a catalyst for increased community pride – restoring a prominent and unique heritage building (winner of Art Deco Society UK’s building of the year 2022) which represents an important part of our region’s cultural and social history valued by all parts of our (often divided) community. With quality facilities the venue will attract national artists and events to the area – several globally recognised creatives with local affiliations are championing the restoration (Jamie Dornan, Ian McElhenny, David Holmes, Marie Jones, Neil Jordan and more), having the dual effect of increasing pride in this community asset and raising awareness of home grown talent.

Catalyst for further regeneration – As well as providing a significant aesthetic improvement to a prominent corner site of high street with a number of long- term vacant units, this bid will provide a creative hub for the city which will attract high footfall to the area. Its creative programme and permanent heritage and museum offer will be an important early additional to council-led plans for a neighbourhood cultural tourism cluster.

Improved Education and Employment aspirations – New creative learning facilities and interactive social history interpretation will enable provision of a rich programme of creative skills courses which inspire a thirst for knowledge, complement the national curriculum, and provide pathways to employment in our regions burgeoning creative industries.

Improved Carbon Footprint – Reusing an existing building, increasing efficiency of the built fabric and introducing renewable energy will notably reduce the buildings carbon footprint. Ticket price incentives for use of active travel modes and other programme initiatives will provide community capacity building for sustainable living.

The impact of non-monetised benefits have been assessed via a weighted scoring model, the weighting reflecting Levelling up and Programme for Government priorities. Overall substantial wider benefits are expected with a high score of 8.75.

Levelling up access to the arts across our city - weighted score: 3.15

Catalyst for further regeneration - weighted score: 1.8

Establishing a strong sense of place and being a catalyst for increased community pride - weighted score: 1.35

Improved Carbon Footprint - weighted score: 1.35

Improved Education and Employment aspirations - weighted score: 1.2

Please see Appendix M for full model.

Provide an assessment of the risks and uncertainties that could affect the overall Value for Money of the bid

Risks affecting VfM include:

An increase in costs

A risk register has been prepared for the financial costs (capital project delivery) of the bid. A number of actions have been identified to mitigate the risk of increased costs and contingencies and optimum bias have been included in costs to further reduce risk.

Reduction in anticipated benefits

The business case also includes a Risk Register, these are more focused on the risk of not meeting the anticipated benefits as identified in the Theory of Change (ToC) model. The logic model identifies data and processes for the monitoring performance and enable intervention and mitigation in the event of underperformance. Processes laid out in the Business Plan, coupled with robust corporate governance will mitigate these risks.

We have tested the impact of increasing and decreasing benefits by 10 per cent and increasing public and private sector costs by 10 per cent (which already includes Optimism Bias). See calculation table in Appendix M.

The Central scenario produces a BCR of 2.29. When benefits are increased by 10 per cent the BCR increases to 2.53. When benefits decrease by 10 per cent the BCR drops to 2.05. When costs increase by 10 per cent the BCR adjusts to 2.07. And when costs increase by 10 per cent and benefits are reduced by 10 per cent the BCR falls to 1.85.

This shows if costs to public and private sector increase by 10 per cent AND benefits are reduced by 10 per cent does the BCR drop below 2.0. Where benefits are decreased by 10 per cent or costs increased by 10 per cent the BCR remains above 2.0.

Additional evidence for economic case

None selected

Confirm the total value of your bid

Total value of bid: £5795000

Confirm the value of the capital grant you are requesting from LUF

Value of capital grant: £4094000

Confirm the value of match funding secured

Value of match funding secured: £1701000

Evidence of match funding (optional)

Evidence Match Funding.docx

Where match funding is still to be secured please set out details 

Belfast City Council Contribution

BCC (with support from Department for Communities) have committed £136,000 to the total project costs already, and plan to contribute a further £350,000 when Levelling up funding provides the catalyst for project delivery.

National Lottery Heritage Fund

NLHF have committed £254,931 toward the development stage (RIBA stages 1-3 and engagement and development activity). £107,000 of this is toward capital costs. On successful completion of this first stage, a further £845,096 of funding will be released for the construction stage, £503,000 of which is for capital costs.

Trusts and Foundations

Ulster Garden Village offered £60,000 toward fitout costs. Swire Charitable Trust gifted £20,000, Steel Charitable Trust gifted £15,000, Esmee Mitchell Trust gifted £20,000. A number of others trusts have been identified as likely supporters. A further £300,000 of trust income is anticipated.

Private Funding

Strand Arts Centre, recently commenced a public fundraising campaign. The organisation is registered with the Fundraising Regulator, has an experienced fundraiser employed fulltime and a comprehensive fundraising strategy. To date £46,520 has been raised, it is anticipated that a further £490,000 will be secured before project start. These forecasts give consideration to expressions of interest from sponsors and are backed by a professional fundraising strategy with consideration given to the timeframes involved.

Total value of the bid excludes OB, however fundraising plans will include additional fundraising to cover OB of 7 per cent.

Land contribution

If you are intending to make a land contribution (via the use of existing owned land), provide further details

The building is owned privately and leased and operated by Strand Arts Centre

(SAC) since 2013 with the aim of securing both its short-term survival and long-term redevelopment.

An agreement for lease (appendix I) will provide secure tenure to SAC for the whole life cost of the building (25 years) at market rent.

Belfast City Council do not wish to acquire the building or land.

Confirm if your budget includes unrecoverable VAT costs and describe what these are, providing further details below

Budget is entirely VAT recoverable. Belfast City Council can recover VAT No 255616355

Describe what benchmarking or research activity you have undertaken to help you determine the costs you have proposed in your budget

Capital Cost Pricing:

  • Capital costs are stated as at Q3 2023 and have been advised by Skope

Quantity Surveyors (formerly BSND);

  • Inflation has been included based on the build profile to; Q3 2023 as per

BCIS indices

  • Capital costs include all professional fees at 4.6 per cent
  • Capital costs include statutory costs at £0 (check planning Fee, Building Control fee)
  • No land or site acquisition will be required.


Excludes legal and accountancy fees, capital contributions, insurances surveys, Testing and Insurance (these will be covered by Belfast City Council)

Capital costs and unit costs are shown (as per June 2022 cost estimate): No. Project Element Cost

  1. Demolitions and Alterations: £649,000
  2. Substructures: £28,000
  3. Superstructures: £772,000
  4. Internal Finishes: £822,000
  5. Fittings, Furniture and Equipment: £409,000
  6. Services: £976,000
  7. External Works: £59,000
  8. Main Contractor Preliminary Costs (10 per cent): £374,000
  9. Optimism Bias and Design Development Contingency (12 per cent): £491,000 - Construction Estimate Total Excluding Inflation: £4,580,000
  10. Provisional Sum Allowance for Project Fees, Costs and Development: £95,000
  11. Professional Fees: £260,000
  12. Provisional Allowance for Stage Lighting and Theatre Installations: £160,000
  13. Provisional Allowance for Cinema Installations: £175,000
  14. Provisional Allowance for Bespoke Signage and Digital Signage: £60,000
  15. Provisional Allowance for Loose Furniture and Blinds: £85,000 Project Total Excluding Inflation: £5,415,000
  16. Inflation from Q2 2022 to Q3 2023: £260,000 Project Total Including Inflation: £5,675,000

Benchmarks for each include the following:

Capital cost estimates benchmarked based on projects of similar size, cost and complexity costed by Quantity Surveyor Skope across Northern Ireland in recent times combined with forecasted inflation indices.

Research activity includes the following surveys and investigative works:

  • Internal coring
  • External coring

Provide information on margins and contingencies that have been allowed for and the rationale behind them

The project has completed and reported on RIBA stage 2 and the majority of work informing the RIBA Stage 3 report has been undertaken.

8 per cent contingency costs has been applied to Stage 2 construction costs. Consideration has been given to the comparatively high level of research or  surveys and resources invested in the project to date resulting in well informed costs. But also to the age of the building, the desire to retain period features and the technical design required for theatrical fitout.

Inflation has been applied to construction costs at 8 per cent for 2022-2023, 5 per cent for 2023-2024 and 2 per cent for 2024-2025 has been applied, in line with current markets and guidelines.

Main Contractor Preliminary Costs have been applied at 10 per cent, in line with current market trends across Northern Ireland in recent times reported by Skope quantity surveyors.

After total capital costs a further Optimum Bias of 7.08 per cent has been advised by Jettora economic consultants, which will be fundraised for.

Describe the main financial risks and how they will be mitigated

  • Failure to secure additional funding; Mitigation: Confirm funding structure before commencing RIBA Stage 4. Minimise time elapsed between cost estimates and construction due to volatile inflation rates
  • Volatile Construction market; Mitigation: On-going cost analysis and Value Engineering through RIBA Stage 3-4. Minimise time elapsed between cost estimates and construction due to volatile inflation rates. Minimised by the nature of project being a refurbishment as opposed to new build.
  • Any delay or project issues can lead to cost overruns; Mitigation: Escalating project costs are mitigated by contingency and regular budget reviews
  • Contractual Claims or Compensation Events; Cost overruns and delays; Mitigation: Accurate cost estimates and well managed change control during and post procurement
  • Programme Delay or Spend profile within time limits; Mitigation: Established programme and actions set at monthly progress meetings
  • Market Conditions and Bidding Competition or Delay to programme and increased costs; Mitigation: Accurate cost estimates and a fast-paced tender process
  • Inflation or Cost overruns; Mitigation: Monitor construction market, use of inflation indices
  • Planning Approval or Delay; Planning periods unpredictable

The Risks above have been extracted from the Costed Risk Register which is uploaded below.

Upload risk register

  • Appendix K_Risk Register.docx

If you are intending to award a share of your LUF grant to a partner via a contract or sub-grant, please advise below

Not applicable

What legal or governance structure do you intend to put in place with any bid partners who have a financial interest in the project?

Belfast City Council will be the sole entity delivering this bid and as such the sole applicant for Levelling Up Funding.

Summarise your commercial structure, risk allocation and procurement strategy which sets out the rationale for the strategy selected and other options considered and discounted

Commercial structure

The European public contracts directive (2014-2024 EU) applies to public authorities including, amongst others, government departments, local authorities and NHS Authorities and Trusts. The directives set out detailed procedures for the award of contracts whose value equals or exceeds specific thresholds. Thresholds are net of VAT and are reviewed annually. The BCC procurement strategy is based on current procedure and guidance from Construction and Procurement Delivery (CPD).

BCC is a public body and therefore bound by the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.

Risk allocation

In assessing risk, BCC are aware that all projects carry both risk and opportunity. In developing the procurement strategy BCC have sought to allocate risks to those best placed to mitigate those risks. In conjunction with BCC’s legal advisors and Design Team, standard CPD Z clauses have been developed that recognise recent changes in market conditions as a result of the Covid pandemic and Brexit.

Procurement strategy

The proposal is to procure the works under one single contract.

In conjunction with their consultant team led by AECOM, a procurement matrix and subsequent procurement and delivery strategy was collated that ensures quality and robustness of specialist components included within the project. The strategy was developed in a series of workshops with a key requirement of the procurement being that the strategy is Public Contract Regulations 2015 compliant.

Despite the timescales and specialist nature of the amendments to the existing building and the constraints that come with such a restoration, the Procedure for this procurement process will be an Open Procedure (Regulation 27 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015). This has been chosen as to not limit valid tender responses in a time when market conditions are volatile, and contractors are more hesitant to take on works of this magnitude in fear of escalation in inflation and subsequently material prices. In order to ensure quality is upheld in that a competent Contractor is appointed this should be a two-stage tender with the PQQ focusing on competency through quality-based questions. A two-stage tender will ensure that all competent tenderers can compete while ensuring that only experienced and competent contractors are invited to tender post-PQQ stage.

In accordance with Northern Ireland Public Procurement Policy the NEC Engineering and Construction Contract (ECC) has been chosen. It should be noted that although the NEC3 is the current industry standard, the NEC4 is replacing the NEC3 in many public sector projects due to it’s rigid but effective protocol regarding change control.

The contract comes with various options related to payment mechanisms including:

  • Option A – Priced Contract with Activity Schedule
  • Option B – Priced Contract with Bill of Quantities
  • Option C – Target Contract with Activity Schedule
  • Option D – Target Contract with Bill of Quantities
  • Option E – Cost Reimbursable Contract
  • Option F – Management Contract.

The Main Option B Contract has been chosen for the following reasons:

  • Increased Cost Certainty - A key objective of this project is cost certainty as

without this the project may fail. As such Option B was chosen as this offers a degree of price certainty. This contract offers less risk to the Employer in relation to price;

  • Scope and Specification – the scope of services will be clearly defined allowing a Contractor to provide a lump sum price against a Bill of Quantities (BOQ). The BOQ will be measured by the Quantity Surveyor (Skope), allowing the Contractor to input rates. The risk and reward lies with the Contractor as long as the scope and BOQ are clearly defined by the project team and Employer changes are limited;
  • Cash flow – Under Option B payment to the Contractor for work under an BOQ which is paid for work done to date. As the Contractor has to provide his BOQ rates at tender stage the payment stages are clearly visible to all parties. In summary cost overruns is the primary risk associated with this project given the difficulty in securing additional funding and the current volatility in the construction market, therefore Main Option B is the most suitable to mitigate this risk. Additional clauses (Z clauses) will be added to the Main Option B contract in keeping with CPD recommendations for government contracts. Option B is effectively a stage payment contract and as payment is linked to completion of works based on a pre-determined BOQ, therefore incentivising the Contractor to carry out his work effectively to facilitate their own cash flow requirements.

Specific terms will form part of the negotiation however, the guiding principle will be to ensure that the payments are staged, and a retention is built in to ensure delivery of the project to the required standard:

Expected contract content and procurement routes for capital investment

The Procurement process will be a Price: Quality ratio of 70:30

AECOM as the appointed ICT lead have considered the issues affecting the NI construction sector and undertaken a health check of the market to identify any potential capability or limitations that may impact on project and procurement timescales and how these will be mitigated. AECOM has advised that the elapsed time between cost estimates and procurement process be minimised due to the volatility in material price inflation from quarter-to-quarter over the last 18-months.

BCC approved of AECOM’s proposed procurement strategy, however it is to be reviewed in the early stages of RIBA Stage 4 Technical Design once the funding structure is finalised

Who will lead on the procurement and contractor management on this bid and explain what expertise and skills do they have in managing procurements and contracts of this nature?

BCC has appointed AECOM to manage the procurement and construction. Appointed in 2018, under a competitive tendering process, AECOM’s experience of procurement on schemes such as Strand Arts Centre is as follows:

AECOM have provided PM services on a range of similar schemes including:

  1. St Comgalls Refurbishment
  2. Templemore Baths Refurbishment
  3. Leisure Transformation Programme

Are you intending to outsource or sub-contract any other work on this bid to third parties?

The bid will be delivered by BCC, together with the appointed Integrated Consultancy and Design Team and the (to be appointed) contractor.

It is proposed that all capital works are procured under one single contract (see earlier response).

Appointment of all contractors and suppliers will be in line with Public Contract

Regulations. The appointed ICT was done by competitive tender with quality scoring requiring demonstration of salient experience and skills and a keen understanding of the brief and project priorities.

Managing suppliers and contractors

Clear lines of communication will be essential to ensuring the integrated project team meets quality and efficiency targets. There are four main elements of the integrated team:

  • Client Team
  • Project Management Team
  • Designers
  • IST

A Project Communications Protocol has been generated to ensure effective and efficient communication between the parties and individuals involved in the project. The following general procedures will be adopted:

  • Communications from the Project Manager to any member of the contracting consortium should be copied to the Contracts Manager of the Principal Contractor.
  • Technical queries communicated from the Contracting Team to the Designers must be copied to the Project Manager’s Representative.
  • Contractual queries communicated from the Contracting Team to any member of the Project Management Team should be copied to the Project Manager’s Representative.
  • All relevant communications should be copied to the Client’s Project Manager

The mechanism for the Project Management Team reporting to the Client, and the way in which the contracting team will be required to report on the project, will be agreed as the project progresses. The reporting systems currently in place for delivery of RIBA stages 3 and 4 are:

  • Monthly Progress Report (MPR)
  • Cost Account Variance Analysis Report (CAVAR)
  • Quality Status Report (QSR)
  • Safety Status Report (SSR)

The KPI’s the Project Management Team will be monitored on are: cost management, time management, quality and health and safety.

Time management

The critical path programme will monitor progress of each aspect of the project. The Project Manager will work together with the design team and contractor to deliver the project on time. The activities within the programme will be developed taking into account the various factors affecting the works including:

  • Statutory and legal requirements
  • Employer’s requirements
  • External Funder Requirements
  • Approvals process
  • Contractual Requirements
  • Resources
  • This will be reported through the Monthly Progress Report (MRP)

Cost management

The completion of the project within budget is a central objective of the project team. The process will identify all the costs associated with the investment, making informed choices about options that will deliver best VfM and managing costs throughout the life of the project. Value management will be used to improve value and reduce costs. The Cost Management duties of the Project Manager, as defined in the NEC ECC, have been contractually delegated to be carried out by Skope.

KPI’s will be monitored through the Cost Account Variance Analysis Report (CAVAR)


Quality Management will be focused on delivering the project to the specification. Quality refers to more than just technical performance, it applies to all aspects of the project: commercial, organisation, people, control and technical. Quality Management for the project will be comprised of four main elements:

  • Quality Planning
  • Quality Control
  • Quality Assurance
  • BCC M+E Good Design Guides

Preparation, checking, and recording of actions are necessary to achieve the standards required. Quality Control is the set of processes that will be used for planning and monitoring the project to ensure that quality is being achieved. Quality Assurance is the set of processes and procedures that will be implemented to demonstrate that the work has been performed according to the quality plan.

Health and Safety and Environmental Management requirements for the project are outlined in the Project Execution Plan. A Principal Designer has been appointed.

KPI’s will be reported through the Quality Status Report (QSR) and the Safety

Status Report (SRP)

Procedures for change control

All projects experience change during their evolution. Changes may be proposed by any of the stakeholders and may be unavoidable or highly

desirable, unnecessary or non-productive. It is essential that any proposed change to the project is formally controlled. The project management team, with input from relevant stakeholders, will review changes fully before granting approval. All approved changes will be documented and communicated via the change control system, a series of pro-forma that have been generated for use within each stage of the project.

How will you engage with key suppliers to effectively manage their contracts so that they deliver your desired outcomes

AECOM following collation of a Procurement Matrix and subsequent Procurement and Delivery Report have recommended use of an NEC4 contract for the purpose of cost certainty given suppliers are only paid upon completion of work on a pre-determined BOQ, therefore incentivising suppliers to provide services to the quality and standard set out in RIBA Stage 4 Technical Design.

In order to assist the supplier in a volatile construction market, AECOM and BCC will establish an efficient and methodical payment structure which will look to minimise the time a supplier’s payment is held before clearing and therefore assisting in maintaining a healthy cashflow and in doing so fostering a working relationship based on mutual trust and cooperation which will in turn benefit project delivery and aid in achieving the project objectives.

As part of the ICT the Lead and Principal Design, Hall Black Douglas, will over see the works to ensure the production of a quality product as per the Scope contained within the Contract Documents.

Set out how you plan to deliver the bid


A detailed programme is appended to this application that details key tasks, periods and interdependencies with key milestones and governance arrangements including those items on the critical path.

The programme will be regularly updated to reflect the current position of the

project through RIBA Stages 4-7. Due to the difficulty in securing additional funding and the escalating costs of materials, administering a well-defined design and construction programme is an integral element of successful completion.

Roles and responsibilities

The project is strategically managed by Belfast City Council, Led by the Project Lead, David Logan.

Strand Arts Centre are the main stakeholder and end client, Mimi Turtle.

An experienced Integrated Consultant Team have been appointed to design, procure and deliver this project with additional resources being called upon as required.

Delivery partner management

BCC has appointed AECOM in the capacity of Project Manager under the terms of the NEC4 Engineering and Construction Contract.

AECOM are working alongside other specialists as part of their ICT as follows:

  • AECOM and Project Manager
  • Hall Black Douglas - Architect
  • Hanna and Hutchinson - Structural Engineer
  • AH Design - Mechanical and Electrical Engineer

Occupier engagement

The facility operators in this case (Strand Arts Centre) are the End Client and take an active role on the Project Delivery Board as such they are fully engaged.

Stakeholder management

A comprehensive Stakeholder Management Strategy and Plan has been development and implemented, see section 6 and Appendix B Stakeholder Engagement for more details.

In addition, the Main Contractor shall be required to be a member of the Considerate Constructors scheme and comply with the Code of Considerate Practice ensuring that during the construction stage local stakeholder’s needs are considered and influence the work of the Contractor.

Statutory approvals

  • The project benefits from existing Planning Permission given the proposed works do not exceed the current red line boundary of the site and focus mostly on internal works
  • Full Planning permission is anticipated in Q3 2022.

Powers and consents

  • Planning Permission – Planning Application submitted Q1 2022
  • For more detail see Attachment J, Project Execution Plan and Delivery Plan

Demonstrate that some bid activity can be delivered in 2022-2023

BCC has appointed an Integrated Construction Team to manage the design, planning and construction. Appointed in 2018 under a competitive tendering process. Due to Covid and Brexit, the design was put on hold in 2020 and later recommenced in 2021. The ICT team is actively working on the project to complete Stage 3 design. The proposed delivery plan is as follows:

Summary Schedule of Project Implementation:

  • Communication Plan: Develop and implement communication plan with community and stakeholders; completed
  1. Appointment of ICT: Prepare project brief, prepare tender documentation, undertake tender process, and award contract for Integrated Consultant Team for duration of project implementation; completed
  2. Planning approval: Planning Submitted towards end of RIBA Stage; Q1 2022-Q3 2022
  3. Procurement of IST: Prepare brief, commence tender process, evaluate tenders for Integrated Supply Team; Q3 22 - Q1 23
  4. Contract award and contract start: Award IST contract and commence construction Q2 23- Q2 23; Major Spend
  5. Construction complete: Construction phase complete; Q2 23 - Q3 24 Major Spend
  6. Animation commence: Events programme commencement; Q4 24 Ongoing BCC confirm that spend within financial year 2022-2023 is achievable. The works programme indicates that spend in 2022-2023 will be £285,917.

Risk Management: Set out your detailed risk assessment

Risk management strategy and plan

BCC is committed to managing risk as an organisation and promotes this for the good of all our stakeholders; the public, employees, Elected Members and partners. Council has a Risk Management Strategy in place, which requires the identification of both Corporate and Service Risks, assessment of impact and likelihood of those risks and the mitigating controls in place. Council has a Corporate Risk Register in place, which is reviewed by the Senior Management Team on a regular basis and presented annually to Audit and Scrutiny Committee. Council developed a suite of Service Risk Registers, and Project Risk Registers that encapsulates all key risks that have the potential to adversely impact on the delivery of core Council services and projects. The risk register has been costed and will continue to be regularly updated alongside programme during RIBA Stages 4-7.

BCC’s key objective in terms of risk management is to ensure there are robust internal controls and governance within the organisation and to ensure these contribute to the overall objectives and deliverables of the project. Council’s risk management approach incorporates the planned and systematic approach to the identification, evaluation and mitigation of risk in line with its Risk Management Policy. Council’s risk system supports effective decision-making and business planning in progressing the project.


Risks will be regularly reported at Project Board Meetings as part of:

  • Checkpoint Reports - frequency defined in each Work Package, minimum of monthly
  • Highlight Reports - defined by Project Board, minimum of monthly
  • End Stage Reports
  • End Project Reports
  • Lessons Reports – at End Stage and End Project

BCC adopts a structured approach to the management of risk, in accordance with its risk management policy and procedures and has a robust risk

management framework in place to effectively manage the collective financial risks associated with the delivery of projects.

Several key risk categories have been developed to assist in the identification of risks including;

  • Financial
  • Legislative
  • Environmental
  • Statutory Approvals
  • Technical
  • Procurement

Once identified, the risk is assessed and allocated to the team best placed to manage that risk to minimise or completely mitigate its impact on the project. This has been achieved by developing either an immediate or contingency responses to the identified risk. Such responses may remove, reduce, avoid,

or transfer the risk. The risk is then added to the risk register where the severity and impact of the risk is assessed, and an owner identified. Risk owners are then required to review and update the assessment of risk during the remaining sages of the project.

See Appendix P for BCC’s Audit Governance and Risk Services policy.

Provide details of your core project team and provide evidence of their track record and experience of delivering schemes of this nature

BCC’s experienced Client Project Manager, David Logan, will lead and manage the appointed Integrated Consultancy Team to deliver the design, planning and construction of the bid in a timely and cost effective manner. Aecom have been appointed Project Manager for the project. Their role is to manage the various stages of the project in order to ensure that the Employer’s objectives for the completed project are achieved, directing the various resources in a planned and controlled manner and ensuring the project delivers best value to Belfast City Council. More details on project organisation and communication protocols can be found in Appendix J Project Execution Plan (delivery plan).

Project Costs allow for specialist consultation and expertise to be seconded to the Design Team to address any capacity gaps, for example, a tender has published for an acoustician and theatre consultant.

The salient experience of each member of the ICT (appointed in 2018 under a competitive tendering process) is summarised below:

BCC has extensive experience in delivering a wide range of capital projects and has in place a Capital Programme for managing schemes through all stages from initial inception (strategic outline case) to monitoring and evaluation including design, Statutory Approvals, procurement, and construction. BCC currently have a portfolio of over 100 live projects with a capital value of more than £500m. These projects also include many schemes delivered on behalf of, or in partnership with, The Executive Office, the Department for Communities and the Department for Infrastructure, to name a few.

Belfast City Council, track record:

St Comgalls Refurbishment; completed June 2022

Refurbishment of a Grade B listed former school on the Falls Road to create a multi-use building, including office space, interpretive area, dining and function facilities. Value: £6m

Templemore Leisure Centre; due to complete August 2022

Refurbishment of a Grade B+ listed multi-use leisure centre, including the restoration of the existing leisure centre and new build extension. Value: £15m

Leisure Transformation Programme Phase 1b

Three New Build Leisure Centres, Andersonstown, Lisnasharragh, Brook. Under one contract involving extensive demolition and remodelling of the sites. Value: £50m

It is considered that these multi-use facilities demonstrate BCC’s experience in delivering similar schemes and compare favourably with the proposed £6m project at Strand Arts Centre.

AECOM, project manager, track record:

St Comgalls Refurbishment

Refurbishment of a Grade B listed former school on the Falls Road to create a multi-use building, including office space, interpretive area, dining and function facilities. Value: £6m

Templemore Leisure Centre

Refurbishment of a Grade B+ listed multi-use leisure centre, including the restoration of the existing leisure centre and new build extension. Value: £15m

Three New Build Leisure Centres – Andersonstown, Lisnasharragh, Brook

Construction of three new multi-use leisure centres under one contract involving extensive demolition and remodelling of the site. Value: £50m

Hall Black Douglas, Architect (DTM lead), track record:

Movie House Cinemas

Conversion and refurbishment of 12 screen cinemas and leisure complex. £4.5m

Windsor Baptist

Conversion of an existing Art Deco cinemas to new community Hub and Church. Value: £4.1m

St Comgalls

Conversion of an existing listed primary school to new community and Arts Hub. Value: £5.5m

Hanna and Hutchinson, Structural Engineer, track record

Windsor Baptist, Belfast

Value:  £3m

Grand Central Hotel, Belfast

Value: £30m

Manor House, Rathlin Island

Value: £1m

Skope Projects, Cost Consultant, track record

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Theatre at the Mill

Construction of a New Arts, Cultural and Community building, providing 400 seat professional theatre, bar and restaurant facilities. Value: £6m

QUB, David Keir Building Refurbishment

Refurbishment and Reconfiguration of Lecture Theatres, Seminar Spaces and Break out Areas including construction of New Rooftop Extension. Value: £5m

Karl Group, Redevelopment of “The Weaving Works”

Extensive Refurbishment of existing red brick former linen warehouse building with new rooftop extension, creating a mixed-use scheme of retail and commercial office space. Value: £5m

A H Design, M&E ENGINEERS, track record

Girdwood Community Hub

Value: £8.5m

Brownstown Community Centre

Value:  £1.6M

Killicomaine Community Centre

Value: £1.6M

Set out what governance procedures will be put in place to manage the grant and project

  • Delegated authority – including Project Board or Committee approvals
  • Financial controls
  • Audit
  • Counter fraud, corruption, and anti-bribery
  • Procedures to avoid Conflict of Interests
  • Cyber security, and data management
  • Code of conduct setting standards for ethical and professional behaviour.

Delivering capital projects

BCC has a demonstrable track record in the delivery of capital build projects that are externally funded. Strong Governance is essential for effective project management and delivery. BCC adopt the Department of Finance ‘Achieving Excellence in Construction Initiative’. This initiative aims to improve the management techniques adopted by clients, measure key aspects of performance, develop an integrated culture within project teams and achieve maximum benefits from standardisation and new technologies.

This project will be managed using already established monthly meetings. The monthly design team meetings discuss the technical details of each RIBA stage and plan the milestones to be delivered (assigning actions and checking progress). A summary is provided, with any decisions or items that need escalated, to a monthly Project Board meeting and this will ensure good governance of this project. These meetings will change and adapt (in terms of frequency and composition) as the project progresses through the RIBA stages and most markedly after the appointment of the main contractor. The code of conduct (setting standards for ethical and professional behaviour) will be based on Achieving Excellence in Construction and will be agreed within the Terms of Reference for the Board.

The Project Board will mange the Delegated Authority limits, the financial controls and provide procedures for avoiding Conflict of Interest. BCC's Audit Governance and Risks Servies (AGRS) department will advise and lead the board on Audit and counter fraud, corruption and anti-bribery. BCC's Digital Services Department will advise and lead the Bord on cyber security and data management.

This project will also be subject to the BCC Due Diligence process where a multi-department panel assess and appraise the project on a staged basis until giving approval for the contractor to be appointed for construction. The panel has a representative from BCC finance team, legal team and estates team which all sit independently from the Project Board. This process ensures that all the necessary probity, long term plans and VFM checks are in place before the commitment of a large construction contract is made.

Please find also attached in Appendix Q BCC’s Audit, Governance and Risks Services procedures and Appendix J for Project Execution Plan (delivery plan)

If applicable, explain how you will cover the operational costs for the day-to-day management of the new asset and facility once it is complete to ensure project benefits are realised

The attached cashflow forecast for the operation of the venue illustrates the net deficit or  surplus forecast from year to year, however it does not provide the reassuring information on the evidence which informed these forecasts nor the governance of the proposed operator – its established goodwill, audience development and stakeholder partnerships, and revenue funding secured. For these details please review the Business Case (Appendix F) and Ten Year Business Plan for Operator (Appendix G. These provide comprehensive information as to how the operational costs for the day-to-day management of the new facility will be met.

As the venue has been used for arts activity in a ‘meanwhile use’ for over 6 years, there is clear evidence of: need and demand; potential revenue, and; anticipated overheads. There is also an established operator which possess strong governance procedures, established funding relationships and award- winning programming. Collectively this background significantly reduces the risks around the sustainability of an arts venue on this site.

Forecast overheads include life cycle costs, ensuring any future capital expenditure required in the long-run it met by the operator.

Set out proportionate plans for monitoring and evaluation

To ensure accountability for public funding and resources, Belfast City Council is committed to delivering a robust Monitoring and Evaluation framework covering the life span of this project and its outcomes.

The projects Theory of Change and Logic Model identifies various targets which require monitoring - inputs, outputs, indicators or intermediate outcomes, and broader LUF outcomes and long-term impacts.

The M&E framework will take a two stage approach: Project Delivery Phase (Q3 2022-2023 to Q3 2024-2025), and; Operational Phase (Q4 2024-2025 onwards). Belfast City Council’s Project Sponsor, Sabine Kalke, will be the responsible officer for collating, monitoring and reporting the data for the mechanical and electrical services framework, whilst evaluation and any change implementation will be the responsibility of BCC’s Director of Physical Programmes. The Project Sponsor will lead all reporting of mechanical and electrical services to LUF.

Monitoring and evaluating the delivery phase

Progress against Delivery Plan (Project Execution Plan)

The following key questions will be accessed at monthly Project Board and ICT meetings:

  • Have all inputs been secured to enable full realisation of delivery phase? (Funding, Specialist knowledge, Planning permission, Building contractor).
  • Is the project meeting its delivery milestones? Project Managers will responsible for coordinating consultants and work plans to ensure timely delivery of the project.
  • Is the project within budget? And cashflow healthy? Expenditure reports presented monthly to Project Board by Project Managers Aecom. Total project costs reviewed on an on-going basis by Skope as detailed design evolves.
  • Is the project being delivered in line with DLUHC and BCC policies and procedures? Are risks being regularly reviewed and mitigating steps taken?
  • Is community engagement on-going and positive support for the project remaining high?

Progress on Delivering Agreed Outputs:

The following physical outputs ought to be delivered before completion of the delivery phase.

  • Disability access throughout
  • Creation of 2 theatre spaces
  • Creation of new changing room
  • Creation of 2 creative learning (and community) spaces
  • Refurbishment of film screening room
  • Interactive interpretive picturehouse heritage space
  • Restoration and reinstatement of unique picturehouse features
  • New hospitality space
  • Restoration of office space
  • Installation of renewable energy sources
  • Improved built fabric – insulation, up-graded windows and draft-proofing
  • Good acoustic design

Monitoring progress for achieving these will commence immediately (RIBA stage 3)

Has the appropriate expertise or stakeholder and end-user engagement been sought to inform design?

As delivery progresses to construction, are contractors appropriately briefed?

Have appropriate fixtures and fittings been sourced?

Data and activity will be monitored monthly by the Project Sponsor, reported and evaluated internally to the Project Board monthly to identify risks, challenges and opportunities. mechanical and electrical services will be reported quarterly to LUF during the Delivery Phase. A full Project Completion report will be produced with a detailed mechanical and electrical services section a year after handover, allowing for snagging and operational feedback to inform learnings.

Monitoring and evaluating the operational phase

The multi-purpose nature of the Strand (arts venue, learning space, heritage tourism offer, community space and facilities) means there are extensive activities and intermediate outcomes to measure; some are listed below. Immediately on completion and opening the intermediate outcomes should be monitored:

  • Total venue footfall.
  • Average additional spend in area and visit;
  • Number of staff, number of artists employed
  • Number of staff and volunteers trained, number of patrons for educational courses delivered, number of qualifications received
  • Number of discounted or FoC tickets to unwaged, seniors, carers for disabled, families in poverty
  • Number of school visits, number of community group visits, number of charity fundraisers hosted, number of cross community events and diversionary events.
  • Number of festivals hosted, number of national or international events and artists who would not otherwise have come to Belfast

Benchmark statistics will be obtained for all outcomes, so the true impact can be measured. Strand Arts Centre has an automated boxoffice and collects a significant amount of data for its own monitoring purposes. However, several important measures are missing (for example, ethnicity and religion of patrons, patrons with disability) and the organisation admits some statistics might be skewed as in-venue ticket purchases (often low-income earners paying cash) are not recorded on the customer database.

The mechanical and electrical services framework for the operational phase is being resourced through funding from National Lottery Heritage Fund. A professional evaluation consultant will be appointed shortly. Their brief includes: finalise the mechanical and electrical services framework; identify reliable procedures for data collection (data at point-of-sale, digital customer questionnaires, footfall counters); design impartial qualitative feedback mechanisms; identify and source all benchmark data; on re-opening train staff in data collection, review monitored data mid-project and provide an interim report, provide full project evaluation one year after completion.

BCC is keen the Monitoring and Evaluation framework can prove causality between interim outcomes and broader longterm outcomes (LUF outcomes and local policy objectives). The Logic Model proposes qualitative digital questionnaires for patrons, local residents, community group leaders and other stakeholders to help establish these causal links, for example, x per cent of visitors more positive as a result of their visit. These findings will be very project specific, perhaps little value to DLUHC’s programme-level mechanical and electrical services, however, they will be critical to the projects evaluation – if there appears to be no link between an activity and its desired outcome intervention must be made, equally unexpected benefits might be identified.

The following outcomes and longterm impacts will not be possible to measure until, at the earliest, after the first full year of venue opening:

  • Improved local economy; Reduced vacancy rates; increased property values; reduced unemployment
  • Increased Pride of Place
  • Improved wellbeing of patrons and local residents

Broad outcomes are largely measured using national data sets (employment levels, property values), whilst robust as source material it may be difficult to get data at local level. BCC will follow LUF guidance on reporting on these. External influences will also be considered and evaluated – did house prices rise more or less than the national average? Where there other positive developments in the area which might have also contributed to improved wellbeing or pride of place?


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