Towns in Northern Ireland are being urged to apply for a new domestic twinning programme, aimed at reinvigorating local town economies.
Launched nationwide by The Carnegie UK Trust, Twin Towns UK aims to modernise the traditional concept of town twinning, which dates back to the Second World War.
Towns with a population under 80,000 such as Enniskillen, Carrickfergus and Bangor are being encouraged to submit applications in order to benefit from a raft of new initiatives, including matched funding, shared knowledge and the creation of an economic development plan that could reignite their fortunes.
Aimed at helping towns to share ideas and boost growth, Twin Towns UK will support the formation of partnerships between 10 towns with similar characteristics or challenges, but potentially with different back stories and approaches, to consider how to make positive change in the future.
Jim Metcalfe, Head of Development at The Carnegie UK Trust, said: “The concept of town twinning was conceived to foster greater understanding and trade between communities in different countries.
“With the devolution of power to big, overarching regions increasingly likely, smaller towns are in danger of being left behind. Twin Towns UK is an opportunity for local councils facing particular problems to form a partnership with a counterpart elsewhere in the country. Having a ‘twinned’ town is something to be proud of – and we think some towns can find that partner here in the UK.”
From two coastal towns with similar infrastructure challenges, or a pair of ‘commuter belt’ towns suffering from the pull of a major city, to a set of rural, and possibly island, communities, there is only room for 10 towns to take part in the initial scheme next year. The selected towns will be supported over 18 months to build their ties, develop a body of evidence, receive economic planning support, and have access to catapult funds to kick start new commercial, voluntary and social enterprise activity.
Local councils, business improvement districts, community development trusts and other local organisations are being urged to apply. For more information, visit: http://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/project/twintowns/ or follow @CarnegieUKTrust.