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ALTERNATIVE FUNDING: Levelling up projects ‘at risk’

ALTERNATIVE FUNDING: Levelling up projects ‘at risk’

Redcar Central railway station, Image: Google Street View

Redcar and Cleveland Council leader Mary Lanigan says it will look for alternative funding after it missed out with a near £40m bid for so-called Government ‘levelling up’ funding.

But Cllr Lanigan’s predecessor Sue Jeffrey said the failure to secure funding meant key projects such a new swimming pool at Eston were “at risk”.

Cllr Lanigan, an independent, confirmed the local authority did plan to re-submit a bid to the Government, but this would not be until a future funding round next Spring.

About £600m was made available by the Government from the £4.8bn levelling up fund with the latest announcement on successful bidders being made on the day of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s autumn Budget.

Redcar and Cleveland was overlooked with its “ambitious” bid which included

:: £5.5m to redevelop Redcar central station

:: £2.9m to regenerate Guisborough town centre

:: £5m for new leisure facilities in Eston

:: £4m for a new footbridge at South Bank railway station

:: £3.5m for a pedestrian and cycle route between South Bank and Nunthorpe

::£4m for a pedestrian and cycle route between Skelton and Brotton

:: £2m for the regeneration of Coatham, Redcar

:: £5m for a new roundabout junction and road infrastructure improvements in Newham Grange, Middlesbrough [in partnership with Middlesbrough Council]

:: £7m for urgent highway repairs including bridges in east Cleveland

And £1m to develop a business case for track and station works on the East Cleveland and Esk Valley railway lines.

Labour’s Cllr Jeffrey, who represents the South Bank ward, queried whether the council had a “Plan B”.

She said was particularly worried over the impact on the proposed timetable to create a new-build replacement for the crumbling 50-year-old Eston pool, in Normanby Road, which has been closed since a flooding incident in the summer of last year.

Cllr Jeffrey said: “I am very concerned that months after the council announced that they were [permanently] closing the baths, we are now having to scrape around looking for alternative money and this could well delay the start even further.

“This is after our MP Jacob Young publicly committed to securing our new baths.

“This area deserves better and as far as the baths are concerned our children and families have been without local swimming for getting on for two years now, how much longer will this mean they have to wait?”

She added: “My argument for a repair and rebuild [of the existing facility] was it was always going to take years to complete a new build and local people shouldn’t be left with nothing in the meantime.

“It has been suggested the baths could be funded from council borrowing, but the scope of the project will now be limited to how much the council can afford to fund.”

It was announced prior to the budget that £310m was separately being made available for transport priorities in the Tees Valley.

This will include cash for improvements at Redcar and South Bank railway stations, line improvements and new cycleways.

Cllr Jeffrey said she had received no concrete information on these elements and the Tees Valley Combined Authority, which will receive the money from the Government, has not yet provided comprehensive detail on which projects will receive what and when.

Cllr Lanigan, who in April promised “spades in the ground” within 18 months on a new swimming pool in Eston and also revealed plans for a new athletics sports village in the vicinity, said: “We are disappointed that our bids to the Levelling Up Fund have not been successful in the phase one round.

“The projects contained in the bid would have made a real difference to the quality of life of our residents and to the safety and accessibility of our borough.

“We will engage with the Government going forward to establish why the bid was unsuccessful at phase one, so that when the council re-submits bids in spring 2022 at phase two, this feedback can frame a successful future resubmission.

“Notwithstanding a phase two bid submission, the council will now look at alternative ways of funding in the meantime which will make Redcar and Cleveland a better place in which to live, visit, study and do business.”

Conservative Mr Young said the transport funding would mean “far more than we had planned” would be spent on South Bank station and said there would be additional spending on Redcar railway station.

Referring to the swimming pool project, he added: “I’m gutted we didn’t get the money this time around for Eston baths, but I’m still committed to working with the council to deliver [this].

“When Labour were last in charge of the council, Redcar had to wait 17 years for a new baths.

“Instead, myself and Mary Lanigan have committed to spades in the ground within 18 months for Eston.

“The budget announcements haven’t changed that plan.”

It has been proposed that building will start on a new swimming pool by November next year and take up to 12 months.

The new pool and sports village would be adjacent to each other with a ‘masterplan’ for the Normanby Road site also including a potential new headquarters for the MFC Foundation – the charity set up by Middlesbrough Football Club owner Steve Gibson, although all elements were provisional on funding being available to the council.

A spokesman for the Treasury said local councils were being encouraged to speak to the newly-named Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to refine levelling up bids to allow for the funding of as many projects as possible in future rounds.

 

Words: Stuart Arnold, Local Democracy Reporter


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