Mersey Dee Alliance seeks £220m cross-border deal
The organisation said that its programme squares with the national levelling up agenda as it gears up to start negotiations with the Welsh and UK governments.
The MDA, which supports economic growth across north-east Wales, West Cheshire and the Wirral, has now published its Cross-Border Recovery Fund document. It said that the bid forms phase one of the post-Covid £400m fiscal stimulus package it asked for in March this year.
Important elements of the bid include a place programme of investment in town centres, along with integrated, active cross-border travel plans and investment in low-carbon and digital skills programmes, including a £60m Business Challenge Fund.
It will also look to build on the HyNet Track 1 hydrogen cluster by bringing forward a proposal for a hydrogen equipment testing facility at Thornton Science Park in partnership with HyNet, which last month secured a funding boost, and the University of Chester.
Wrexham council leader Cllr Mark Pritchard, who chairs the Alliance, said: “The MDA economy has been hit hard by Covid 19. Our GVA contracted by 15%, equivalent to £3.5bn of the pre-pandemic, £22bn value of the economy. Thousands of jobs were lost in aerospace, other manufacturing sectors and retail.
“Investment is needed now to recover from the negative economic impacts of Covid 19 and lay the foundations for future, sustainable growth driven by the world’s first net zero, industrial cluster in partnership with HyNet and businesses.”
Pritchard spoke of the “administrative complexity” of each side of the border being guided by two sets of policy frameworks, this being another factor in poor delivery of public transport infrastructure.
The MDA has worked in close partnership with other bodies including the North Wales Economic Ambition Board, the Cheshire & Warrington LEP and Liverpool City Region to produce its proposals. It said there is a “growing consensus” that the Mersey Dee area requires a statutory local growth partnership of its own, and that the deal would enable that.
Cllr Stuart Whittingham, vice chair of the MDA said: “We estimate that the investment will return over £500m in financial benefits.
“Our Place Programme of town centre investment is critical to the Deal. The Mersey Dee area is characterised by many small-town centres which have a higher vacancy rate than average in the UK. Our proposals will create a fund to repurpose empty buildings and revitalise our town centres as small businesses communities.”