Merseyside appears on course for its own dedicated urban development fund to manage its share of the £100m Jessica fund, according to North West Development Agency board minutes.
There would be two other UDFs created to cover the rest of the North West although details of their geographic split were not released. Merseyside already has special ring-fenced status as a former Objective One recipient.
The new fund was discussed at the December 2009 board meeting of the NWDA, for which minutes were published this week. Board members said three urban development funds were likely to be established to invest the initial £100m budget. The Government has approved the creation of up to five UDFs for each Jessica fund in the country – London's is the only other one set up to date. Formal procurement of the UDFs will start in March, with UDFs expected to be selected by the end of the summer.
The minutes state: "In respect of JESSICA the Board also noted that the European Investment Bank creates the UDFs on the basis of an Investment Strategy and there are likely to be three in the region. It is extremely likely that there will be one for Merseyside given their ring-fenced allocation in ERDF."
The overall pot will be called the Northwest Urban Investment Fund and is being created under the Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas programme. The fund is underwritten by the European Investment Bank but will employ North West Development Agency and European Regional Development Fund money.
Speculation suggests the fund is likely to spent on a few large schemes rather than being spread more thinly over many smaller projects.
The initiative will aim to unlock problematic property schemes in agreed strategic sites around the North West over the next five years. Investment can take the form of loans, guarantees or equity, but not grants. Returns on investment are expected, with profits recycled to create further developments.
- The December board minutes also cite comments from Conservative Shadow Communities Secretary Caroline Spelman that "RDAs would not be abolished if the region wanted to keep them" following a change of government