TOWNS FUND: Thornaby and Middlesbrough to recieve £46m
Two Teesside towns will share £46m in funding to make “once in a lifetime” improvements, it’s been announced.
Thornaby was granted £23.9m from the Towns Fund initiative in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget, while Middlesbrough was handed £21.9m.
Towns across the country were invited to apply for up to £25m in grants, with both Teesside areas drawing up bids focused on cleaning up town centres and regeneration projects.
The news comes as Mr Sunak announced that a Free Port would be established on Teesside – a “policy on a scale we’ve never done before” the Chancellor said – while 750 Government jobs will head to Darlington from the capital.
What it will be spent on
Money in Thornaby will be prioritised in four key ways.
Long standing vacant properties in the town centre, such as the Eagle hotel and the NPower building, which have long been issues for residents, will be re-purposed.
Poor quality housing in North Thornaby will also be improved.
A dedicated new “skills centre” will be established to help residents with training for new careers, while the money will also go towards a new North-South footpath and cyclepath between the railway station and the town centre.
Meanwhile, the £21.9m for Middlesbrough will be spread across the town – with cash to help restore the Old Town Hall, at St Hilda’s, included in the town’s bid.
Council papers have shown that up to £10m has been lined up for regeneration plans for land at Middlehaven, made up of Towns Fund money and a slice of the £14.1m awarded from the Future High Streets Fund (FHSF) before Christmas.
Money is also set to be pumped into central Middlesbrough – with cash earmarked for a mooted leisure development at the council-owned Captain Cook Square shopping centre.
And cash will also go towards ambitions to bring thousands more people to live in the centre of the town.
‘This is levelling up’
Stockton South MP Matt Vickers, who worked with councillors, residents and the owners of the Pavilion shopping centre on Thornaby’s bid, welcomed the cash as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”.
“Alongside the Government, I stood on a pledge that committed to levelling up and today we have seen the Government put its money where its mouth is,” he said.
“We’re seeing issues that have blighted the area and held Thornaby back finally being tackled – be it the Eagle and the NPower office block or poor-quality housing. Moreover, we’ll be creating opportunities for local youngsters to pick up the skills and unleash their potential.
“This money will be spent on local people’s priorities and deliver results for them.
“I’m determined to make sure every penny of it is well spent.”
Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Tory MP Simon Clarke said: “The announcements that Teesport is to become a Freeport, that Treasury North is to bring hundreds of senior decision-making jobs to Darlington and that Middlesbrough is to receive £21.9m from the Towns Fund are each fantastic.
“Taken together, they are historic.
“They will create jobs, and prosperity, and opportunities for talented young people and mark a reset moment for our local economy and society.
“I cannot emphasise how much it means to me that my area – that soared to prominence based on our expertise in steel, chemicals and shipping – now has this fantastic chance for renewed success.”
‘We need this to benefit the whole town’
Thornaby Mayor Cllr Steve Walmsley believed the success was down to the concerted efforts of a board put together to work on the plan.
Cllr Walmsley added: “If we’re going to have a town deal it’s got to benefit the whole town – not just certain areas.
“North Thornaby has been left behind for a number of years – the A66 going through the heart of the town never helped but we are where we are and we’ve got to revitalise that area.”
Cllr Nigel Cooke, Labour cabinet member for regeneration and housing at Stockton Council, said: “We are currently on a journey to make sure our six town centres are able to adapt to changing habits and Thornaby is no different. The funding will allow us to make significant changes to secure its long-term popularity in the future.”
Mark White OBE, chair of the Town Deal Board, added: “To receive such positive news in the current circumstances is confirmation that the application that the Town Deal Board put forward was the right one for Thornaby and I am pleased to see the hard work of all its members pay off.”
‘People will say wow, what a place’
Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said that the Towns Fund cash was “the beginning of levelling up”, and teamed with the £14m High Streets Fund cash would help “transform Middlesbrough”.
“We can do everything I’ve promised, we are going to create the futures, build on brownfield sites, we’re going to create offices and jobs of all kinds, for everyone,” he said in a video update posted to his Twitter account.
“If you are leaving school or you need a job, there is going to be great and exciting things happening.
“People are going to come to Middlesbrough and they’re going to say ‘wow, what a place’.
“So thank you to Government, we want more and we deserve more, but this is a great start.”
Words: Alex Metcalfe, Local Democracy Reporter
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