Manchester councils to run £350m Jessica fund

A consortium led by Manchester City Council and the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities has been selected as preferred bidder to establish a £350m regeneration fund which will help enable projects critical to the region's economy to go ahead.

The European Investment Bank chose a consortium of Agma, CB Richard Ellis and Greater Manchester Pension Fund as preferred bidder to deliver its proposals for the North West Urban Investment Fund.

The consortium, known as Evergreen, is supported by local authorities across Cheshire, Cumbria and Lancashire, while Lancashire County Council and Manchester City Council will act as co-chairs.

The fund will start with £20m in public money allocated from the North West's share of the European Regional Development Fund as part of its Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas scheme (Jessica), now known as the North West Urban Investment Fund, plus additional funding from the North West Development Agency.

This will unlock a further £30m of public sector match funding and could see a total fund in excess of £300m, including investment from both the Greater Manchester and Lancashire Pension Funds, levered into regeneration projects in the North West over the next ten years.

Manchester City Council said that the proposals will underpin the North West's long term growth and stability through the prudent use of public and private funding and support the rejuvenation of commercial and industrial assets.

The council said the fund will initially be made up of three pools, one specifically for Greater Manchester and one for Cheshire, Cumbria and Lancashire, plus a third to be spent in either area. Merseyside is not included in the fund as it will be subject to a separate urban development fund.

The scheme will provide loan funding to be invested in projects which will generate a financial return, money which will then be recycled to keep the fund going.

Manchester City Council said the fund will give developers the opportunity to secure finance for strategic sites which will make a significant contribution to the success of the North West's economy and help create jobs.

The council said it hoped to expand the scope of the fund to include financing for major low carbon, housing and transport projects.

Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said: "This is proof that when left to get on with it local areas will and do work together for the common good. I want to see more of this: more civic entrepreneurship, more working across old boundaries and above all, more creative use by the public sector of scarce resources."

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, which applied on behalf of AGMA, Cumbria, Cheshire and Lancashire, added: "In these challenging times when public resources are extremely limited it is important that we continue to deliver as many regeneration priorities as possible by unlocking new ways of finding investment. The funding support we have received from banks and other partners such as the Greater Manchester Pension Fund is therefore very welcome, as is the support we have received from local authorities around the region as all of us work together to maintain the momentum for growth."

Sarah Whitney, head of government and infrastructure at CB Richard Ellis, said: "The consortium's proposals are the result of a uniquely collaborative approach which has meant that more than forty expressions of support were received prior to the submission of the proposals to the European Investment Bank, from local authorities, developers and other public sector bodies, many of which will be beneficiaries of the funding that Evergreen secures."

Kieran Quinn, leader of Tameside Council and chairman of the Greater Manchester Pension Fund, said: "The Greater Manchester Pension Fund has been investing in and supporting regeneration and development opportunities throughout Greater Manchester for many years. We look forward to investing in schemes that will deliver on our twin aims of commercial returns and economic regeneration."

Robert Hough, chairman of the NWDA, said: "The NWDA launched the North West Urban Investment Fund alongside the European Investment Bank back in December and this will be one of the legacy funds which the region can proudly leave in place for the region. It is an opportunity for the region to put a mechanism in place that will ensure we can prolong the benefit of our programme. The returns on these investments can be re-used on other projects again and again, extending the life of our European funding and helping us to maintain a higher level of physical regeneration during the challenging economic climate."

Work will now get underway to get the fund established so that it is operational early in 2011.

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