Several towns and cities plan to tap into the Government’s latest offer of funding to progress property and infrastructure schemes, with council-led partnerships in Blackpool, Wyre, Cheshire and Warrington among those readying bids.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick wrote a letter to UK mayors and the 38 local enterprise partnerships last week inviting them to submit proposals for how Whitehall funds could be used to accelerate existing Government -funded capital projects, “to generate new activity within 18 months, help create jobs and raise overall demand in the economy”.
“In addition, we are willing to consider exceptional, additional shovel-ready capital projects that can be delivered within 18 months,” the letter dated 10 June, which the Government has not made public but which was seen by Place North West, said.
“We recognise of course the challenges associated with delivering capital programmes this year.”
Any new proposals “must meet value for money standards agreed through local assurance frameworks…[and] deliver on two overarching objectives – driving up economic growth and jobs and supporting green recovery”, the letter added.
Longer-term projects with a funding tail beyond 2022 are out of scope, it said. The deadline for submissions is 18 June.
Many local authorities told Place North West that the timeframes are tight but that they are working with LEPs and other partners to rapidly draw up bids.
Few were able to say at this stage which projects they would like additional funding for, but town centre regeneration schemes already in development, such as in Warrington and Blackpool; projects focussed on science, technology or other innovation, for example in Cheshire; and road and other infrastructure schemes to improve connectivity in the region, are likely to be included in the proposals.
A spokesperson for Cheshire & Warrington LEP said: “We are pleased that [the Government] continues to look at opportunities to level up the UK economy.
“The LEP is working with the three local authorities and will be submitting suitable schemes to create jobs and unlock development. We hope this will allow us to build on our existing £500m capital investment programme.”
Cheshire & Warrington LEP in March launched a £20m fund, managed by CBRE, to invest in low-carbon building improvements and R&D schemes in the area, such as at Birchwood Park near Warrington.
Infrastructure development within the Hillhouse Technology Enterprise Zone, on the site of a former chemical production facility on the Wyre coast at Thornton-Cleveleys, is one scheme Wyre Council is putting forward for Government funding.
A council spokesperson said: “The council is working with the Lancashire LEP to submit two shovel-ready projects to the Government. The first will be with [brownfield regeneration developer] NPL Group on infrastructure improvements at ]Hillhouse] to facilitate 200 jobs in the area.
“The second project will be working with Associated British Ports on the development of industrial units, a fish park facility and enabling housing development at Wyre Dock.”
Blackpool, meanwhile, is currently progressing its Blackpool Central masterplan with a variety of schemes either on the drawing board or in construction.
A spokesperson for Blackpool Council said: “As we start to take small steps back to a new normal, time is of the essence for many of our local businesses and our economy, so any acceleration of funds and support from government is a welcome opportunity to help us stimulate development and create new jobs.
“Blackpool Council is currently working closely with the LEP to identify where any support would be best utilised and looking at which planned activity could be brought forward over the next 18 months for the overall benefit of the town.”
Manchester City Council is understood to have curated a longlist of possible options, which is currently being considered. Liverpool City Councils has also been contacted for comment.
Jenrick said in his letter that the invitation for proposals “at this time does not amount to a commitment to accelerate or offer new funding. We are keen to simply understand the options available across the country.”
The Government is also working with LEPs to review their local growth fund programme to better understand their funding allocations at a challenging time, the Communities Secretary added.