Developers will receive a welcome funding boost when the region's £100m JESSICA fund is launched next month by the North West Development Agency.
The NWDA will formally announce details of the new fund at an event on 11 December in Manchester.
The Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas fund will be aimed at unblocking stalled schemes in key city sites using money from the European Regional Development Fund and NWDA.
The European Investment Bank will act as holding fund for the programme, which must spend its allocated money by the end of 2015. The EIB's involvement enables the NWDA to stretch out its ERDF work from the original end date of 2013.
A report by Ian Haythornthwaite, executive director of resources at the NWDA, states that investments made through JESSICA will be expected to make a return, 'rather than following the traditional grant approach that provides ERDF funding as a gift'.
Haythornthwaite continued: "This return will then be re-invested into new urban development projects that create further returns for further new investments. This will create an 'evergreen fund to support regeneration and economic development in the region."
The stated priorities set out in the report are fourfold:
- Deliver Strategic Regional Sites, especially 'knowledge nuclei' and 'intermodal freight terminals'
- Identify and pursue reserve sites for major investment that would not otherwise come forward: particularly for manufacturing, knowledge-based industry, corporate headquarters and research & development
- Develop a portfolio of sub-regionally important employment sites
- Invest in quality business space in Housing Market Renewal and Urban Regeneration Company areas
The NWDA will delegate power for delivering investment in projects to Urban Development Funds, a new layer of funding appraisal to be created through competitive process by the North West JESSICA board. It is not clear at this stage whether UDFs will be absorbed into existing sub-regional partners such as The Mersey Partnership, urban regeneration companies like New East Manchester or whether new teams will be recruited.
The NW JESSICA board is currently being assembled but will definitely contain Paul Lakin, land and property director at the NWDA, Haythornthwaite, three independent members, and two regional partners responsible for 'regional scrutiny'. Members will be appointed for an initial two years with re-appointment possible after that.
The first investments will be made after the UDFs have been established in early 2010.