An ambitious multi-million package to make a host of major ‘shovel ready’ projects in North Devon and Torridge a reality is expected to be revealed today (Tuesday, June 30).
It is part of Prime Minister’s Boris Johnson’s £5billion ‘new deal’ programme to get the UK economy on the road to recovery after the coronavirus pandemic.
Local projects such as Ilfracombe Watersports Centre and Northam Burrows Centre as well as expansion of the North Devon Enterprise Centre and Caddsdown in Bideford could all benefit from the cash boost.
It follows a £121million bid for funding for ‘shovel ready’ projects that could be completed by January 2022, submitted by the Heart of the South West (HotSW) LEP.
It believes these would provide an immediate stimulus to the economy, unlocking at least another £171 million of investment and creating more than 3,000 jobs.
Earlier in June the Government asked LEPs (local enterprise partnerships) around the country to submit bid to form part of its £900m plans for ready to go projects to boost local economies.
Under the same ‘new deal’ banner Mr Johnson will say in a speech today he wants to follow in the footsteps of president Franklin D Roosevelt, who led the US out of the Great Depression in the 1930s.
He will say his message is ‘build, build, build’ as the UK comes out of lockdown after the Covid-19 pandemic.
The £5bn package will include money for hospitals, schools and roads.
HotSW asked local councils for a list of projects that could be ready to go, with North Devon and Torridge looking set to reap many benefits if the bid is approved.
The money could accelerate existing schemes such as the watersports centre, Burrows Centre and Torridge Environment Centre (the emerging of three council depots).
There are also exciting new projects including a 100-hectare Woodland Enterprise Zone and Woodland Enterprise Hub that would unlock £58m by supporting a range of industries from timber to biomass fuels and a tree nursery.
The list of new projects features the expansion of Caddsdown Industrial Estate in Bideford and increasing the North Devon Enterprise Centre.
There are also plans for a ‘digital biosphere’ that would create a huge network of digital and data infrastructure across the region, supporting agriculture, schools and businesses.
South West LEP chairman Karl Tucker said it was the start of their Route Map to Recovery programme, adding: “Our £121m bid to Government will help the national campaign to build back better.
“We’ve selected our list based on how much these projects can deliver in economic, social and environmental benefits in the short and long term.”
What projects are in the bid?
New projects – Digital Biosphere – The creation of a ‘smart rural’ digital infrastructure across northern Devon. The funding will create a ‘Smart Biosphere’ data centre, data modelling, big data processing, machine learning/artificial intelligence and a regional-wide low power wide area network (LoRaWAN) of data gateways and sensors, integrated with spatial data from satellites.
Benefits include applications for improved agricultural practises and compliance, data science start-up/SME opportunities, catchment services/water quality, soil management and carbon sequestration, digital woodland management, plus educational opportunities from primary schools right up to University research. The project will create economic growth at the intersect of big data/AI and environmental futures.
Works hubs Caddsdown phase 3 – Support to bring forward the stalled expansion of the Caddsdown Industrial Estate in Bideford. This funding will support the acquisition and servicing of the site, preventing valuable economic development land being held back in preference to residential build-out. There is limited available industrial land in Torridge yet growing need, in particular for larger, grow-on units.
North Devon Enterprise Centre Phase 2 – Phase 2 of the North Devon Enterprise Centre - to expand the facility to provide small workshop/industrial units in demand in the area. Will be built to BREEAM excellent standards. The current operator procurement includes this extension and so occupiers will have access to business support services. Option to include EV charging points and rooftop PV in the specification.
North Devon (no location) Creation of a passivhaus for eco-skills training.
Biosphere Woodland Enterprise Hub – The Woodland Enterprise Zone creates an economic accelerator for the woodland based economy for the region.
Woodland within the Biosphere delivers £16m per annum, and the Woodland Enterprise Zone will help to unlock this up to £58.5m per annum in improved ecosystem services and productivity, creating up to £42.5m per annum in total economic growth. The Zone will knit together the creation of a 100 Hectare Woodland Enterprise Zone, with and Woodland Enterprise Hub as a two-hectare development.
The Zone will provide green growth through the sale of timber, fencing, building materials, sustainable biomass fuels, certified carbon offsets, biodiversity net gains, as well as a tree nursery to support the shortage of trees for forestation across the UK. It will also help to reduce flood risks. It will also have a workshop and office spaces onsite, for wood-based enterprises to incubate and grow.
Training courses and apprenticeships will be run for forestry management, carbon project certification, as well as public enrichment courses from furniture making and basket weaving.
The Zone will also encourage economic development and through a membership program made up of wood industry-related craftspeople, wood frame builders, and other users of woodworkers. The woodland Hub will also deliver recreation and tourism revenue through a latticed of cycle paths, recreational amenities and car parking.
Condition Works – The majority of condition works are made up of three main areas being roof replacement, window replacement and cladding of facilities.
Accelerated projects (existing projects) – Ilfracombe Watersports Centre – The construction of a watersports centre and associated infrastructure on a brownfield site within Ilfracombe Harbour. The project aims to regenerate the harbour, (the main tourist attraction within the town), improve and increase tourism, provide up to 101 direct and indirect jobs and support up to 300 local businesses. The centre will also provide training and events facilities.
Burrows Centre (Torridge)
The Burrows Centre in Northam seeks to transform a building which is no longer fit for purpose into a regional destination and centre for environmental awareness and education. Surrounded by SSSI and within both the North Devon UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and North Devon AONB the site works closely with schools yet has limited facilities and a limited draw for tourists. Yet the proposals aim to develop a high quality offer for nature and eco tourism in the area and will be supported by a designated Nature Tourism Officer to work with the community and business sector.
Torridge Environmental Centre – Rationalisation of three council depots onto one operationally and environmentally efficient Depot, Recycling and Environmental Education Centre.