NWDA invites bidders for Jessica fund

Michael Hunt

The North West Development Agency is calling for expressions of interest into two lots available under the region's £100m Jessica fund initiative.

The European Investment Bank, with support from the NWDA and European Regional Development Fund, is launching a call for expressions of interest with the aim of selecting two Urban Development Funds to receive resources from the Northwest Urban Investment Fund under the Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas initiative for the North West, known as the Jessica fund.

The £100m Northwest Urban Investment Fund was set up with £50m from the European Regional Development Fund and the equivalent match of £50m from the NWDA, and is managed by the European Investment Bank.

Urban Development Funds are a new layer of funding appraisal created through a competitive process by the North West Jessica board.

The Jessica fund, which was launched in December last year, is aimed at unblocking stalled schemes in key city sites using money from the European Regional Development Fund and NWDA.

The NWDA said Urban Development Funds can be a private or public body, but must be either an independent legal entity or established as a separate block of finance within a financial institution.

Lot 1 is the Merseyside Urban Development Fund, a £30m European Regional Development Fund investment which must be supported by £30m of match funding secured by the Urban Development Fund.

Lot 2 is for the rest of the North West Urban Development Fund, a £20m European Regional Development Fund investment, and a further £10m from the NWDA. This UDF must also secure £30m of match funding. At least £10m of European Regional Development Fund funding must be directed in projects within the Greater Manchester area and at least another £10m must be for projects across Cheshire, Lancashire and Cumbria.

Successful stage 1 applicants will be notified in May. Stage 2 submissions will be required in June, with preferred bidder status expected to be announced by mid July.

The NWDA said completion of operational agreements with the preferred bidders is targeted for end of September, with the first UDF investments in urban projects to take place in the region before the end of the year.

Robert Hough, chairman of the NWDA, said: "The Northwest Urban Investment Fund is ahead of schedule and at the current rate of progress, North West projects could have access to the first urban investment fund, of this kind and size, in the country."

"The fund will allow us to invest in projects on a long term and sustainable basis, as an additional tool to grants and is an opportunity for the region to prolong the benefit of our current ERDF Programme."

Simon Brooks, European Investment Bank vice president responsible for the United Kingdom, added: "As fund manager of the NWUIF, we are delighted to be launching this call for expressions of interest for urban development funds. In line with the spirit of the Jessica initiative we look forward to support much needed urban regeneration in the North West region through longer term sustainable investment."

Liz Meek, chair of the European Regional Development Fund's programme monitoring committee, said: "European funding has changed the face of towns and cities across the North West and brought thousands of skilled jobs to the region. This is an important stage both in the development of our cities and in the way the North West prepares for economic recovery."

The NWDA said the Northwest Urban Investment Fund has been set up to invest in Urban Development Funds that will in turn invest in projects that will help unlock and regenerate sustainable development in the North West's urban areas and make a difference to our towns and cities.

The NWDA added that by providing funding support in this way, the public sector will be able to obtain a return from the investment and reinvest the returns in future projects, thereby creating a sustainable revolving investment fund.

  • Applicants may express their interest by 23 April this year at the latest, in accordance with the terms of the call for expression of interest on the European Investment Bank website

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