Annabelle Dickson, Political Editor
Monday, July 7, 2014
Better broadband, new roads and college buildings will be built in Norfolk and Suffolk amid a multi-million diversion of government funds which the prime minister claims will create “real change” in the region.
Norfolk and Suffolk’s local enterprise partnership has won more than £60m to start spending next year from the Government’s Local Growth Fund of around £1bn, which has been prised from Whitehall departmental budgets.
The New Anglia Lep submitted plans for a total of £500m over six years, and while it did not secure funds for an engineering centre expansion at West Suffolk College, said it had clinched the cash for all its “top priority projects”.
With its bid up against other Leps it has not published its full wish-list in the competitive process.
The government has also pledged a further £113m to Norfolk and Suffolk’s Lep after 2016, from a pot three times oversubscribed.
Among the projects which have been given government backing are the Beccles and Bury St Edmunds relief roads, three college projects in Norfolk and Suffolk and a plan to get fast broadband to 95% of homes in the two counties.
Mark Pendlington, chairman of New Anglia LEP said the “bold plans” submitted to the government aimed to “reinforce Norfolk and Suffolk’s place in the global economy”.
“This is a fantastic vote of confidence with 10 of our priority projects winning significant funding and support which will unlock real growth across the region. This means new roads and better transport links, greater training and skills for the regions youngsters, targeted funding and support for small businesses and faster broadband – an enterprise lifeline for the entrepreneur through to the established rural company.”
Prime Minister David Cameron said it was a “historic day”, adding: “There’s a simple idea behind these growth deals: trusting people.
“For the past few months, we’ve been working with local businesses, colleges and councils to see what Norfolk and Suffolk need.
“And today, we are going to put pen to paper and make it happen. And let me be clear: what we’re signing are not a load of pie-in-the-sky ambitions.”
THE MAIN SCHEMES GIVEN THE GREEN LIGHT:
An extra £10m towards a project to get fast broadband to the most rural areas of Norfolk and Suffolk should help get 95% of homes connected by 2017. The money will be added to Norfolk and Suffolk’s Better Broadband projects, which has been running since 2012.
The original deals between BT and the county councils meant that 83% of Norfolk’s homes and businesses could expect to access high-speed broadband services of at least 24Mbps (megabits per second) by the end of 2015, and 85% in Suffolk.
• EASTON & OTLEY COLLEGE
The government will hand over money to the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, but the funds will be held and distributed by Suffolk County Council because leps are private limited companies and can’t hold government funds under current legislation.
Work will start on the first wave of projects will start next year.
Negotiations over the next round of the Local Growth Fund – £2bn for 2016/17 – will start immediately.
New Anglia chairman Mark Pendlington said: “This success is a real tribute to all those who helped shape our plans, from local authorities and MPs to business and education leaders. But the hard work now begins to build on what we have already achieved and we pledge to redouble our efforts to champion Norfolk and Suffolk as an enterprise hub for UK plc and beyond. The Government Growth Deal pot was three times over-subscribed so it was inevitable that some projects, however good or compelling, would not be funding this time, but negotiations for the next round of funding begin next week and we will be working hard to ensure it’s better news next time.”
New Anglia will be awarded funding annually in advance.
About 350 students a year will be giving the skills to build the homes of the future and energy infrastructure at a new training centre in Easton.
The £3.75m facility, which is ready to start, will be built at Easton and Otley College, pictured above, with £2.5m coming from the Local Growth Fund.
There is a shortage of skilled construction workers in the area and the new college will help the region to meet its housing targets.
Once it is up and running it will train up to 350 new students in construction in this area, every year.
The government has given its backing to a further six projects, provisionally allocating £20.1m for schemes which would start after 2016.
Negotiations around the final amount are still to take place, but the government has provisionally indicated that it will give about £9m towards plans to maintain the road network and ease congestion in Great Yarmouth.
It has also provisionally awarded £125,000 for a study to assess options for the new river crossing in Lowestoft.
About £4.6m has been provisionally earmarked for transport improvements in Attleborough town centre, £2.3m for improvements in Thetford town centre, including a road-cycle link and about £1.8m for measures to improve traffic flow in Ipswich.
Bury St Edmunds is also in line for around £2.3m for a package of sustainable transport measures for cycling walking and public transport in the town.
• LOWESTOFT COLLEGE
Planning permission to demolish the old technology department to make way for a new engineering, catering and hospitality block was granted in March.
Richard Perkins, chairman of the Lowestoft College Corporation, said he was delighted with the news £10m of funding had been granted. The building will incorporate a simulated process engineering plant, where students can gain experience with machinery used by local industries, including food packaging and manufacturing and offshore energy generation. It will also include a training restaurant and a new public restaurant.
• COLLEGE OF WEST ANGLIA
A new science and technology skills and training facility will be built at the College of West Anglia with the help of £6.5m from the Local Growth Fund.
The new 2,000sq m centre in King’s Lynn will provide higher level education and training in areas such as science, technology and management.
It will include 14 digital classrooms, a 120-seat multi-media lecture, offices and social space. It aims to address the skills and employment gap in Fenland and West Norfolk.
• WISBECH RAIL LINK
The long-awaited re-opening of Wisbech railway station took a step closer with the announcement of £500,000 which will go towards work to look at reopening the line between the town and March.
The money, which will be available in April 2015, is for two feasibility studies, which could see transport improvements on both road and rail in Fenland.
The first £250,000 is for a detailed engineering study, known as a GRIP 2 study, which will determine how Network Rail can deliver the project to re-open Wisbech railway station and re-instate the rail link between Wisbech and March. The other is for detailed feasibility work into dualling the Wisbech to Guyhirn stretch of the A47.
• COSTESSEY FAST-TRACK
Developer Taylor Wimpey will be loaned £2.1m by the government to fast-track its 495-home Lodge Farm development.
The cash will also see a new school site, community centre and sports facilities built. Planning permission has already been given for the scheme, but the cash means that a much larger proportion of infrastructure on the site can be completed. Costessey and Easton have been earmarked for 1,000 new homes under the Greater Norwich Development Partnership (GNDP) core strategy – a blueprint for future development in Norfolk. It would be the second part of the Lodge Farm development.
• BECCLES RELIEF ROAD
Work on the Beccles southern relief road will start in 2015 after the government has put forward £2m towards the £7m scheme.
The long-discussed project took a major step forward last year after Suffolk County Council held a consultation, and decided to fund the scheme.
The announcement that the Beccles Relief Road is to receive £2m from the Local Enterprise Partnership will be celebrated by many people in the town.
The new road will link the A146 Norwich to Lowestoft Road with the A145 and A12 Ipswich road which means traffic will not have to travel along the narrow roads in Beccles town centre, left.
The new road will also carry traffic heading for Ellough Industrial Estate and give a boost to the local economy.
Supporters of the scheme, which is being backed by Beccles Town Council, include Suffolk County Council leader Mark Bee, who lives in the town, and Waveney MP Peter Aldous. Mr Aldous said: “My view on a southern relief road is that it is a very good, worthwhile, value for money project.”
• BURY ST EDMUNDS RELIEF ROAD
A relief road to the east of Bury St Edmunds is expected to see the town’s business park expand and new homes and a school built.
The government has pledged £5.7m towards the £15m scheme, which leaders claim could see national businesses re-locate to the Suffolk Business Park.
It will also allow 500 new homes to be built in the town and a new secondary school and community football project started.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council aims to award the contract for the road construction before May next year. John Griffiths, leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said: “There is still a long way to go but this project will help create an abundance of jobs, investment and prosperity for our area, to be enjoyed by our children, and generations to come.” . It is estimated that the total project will bring an estimated £275m of investment into the area.
• OTHER FUNDING
Haverhill Research Park: £1m to help build a new “Epicentre” innovation centre focusing on local strengths of advanced manufacturing and life sciences.
Growing Business Fund: £12m to extend a funding scheme for small & medium sized businesses until 2020
New Anglia Growth Hub: £350,000 to extend the business support service until 2016
Growing Places Fund: £10m to extend the existing fund to kick-start investment in homes and business capital infrastructure.