25 July 2014

July update

As the summer holiday period approaches I thought it might be a good time to reflect on some of the LEPs recent successes. Without doubt the biggest development since my last update has been the announcement of the Lancashire Growth Deal, a six-year investment programme worth over £370m.

Transport Minister Patrick McLoughlin came to Lancashire to make the announcement in person and I was honoured to have the opportunity to talk to him about the progress the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership has made.

Lancashire is really starting to punch above its weight, being awarded the fourth biggest Growth Deal in the country, in spite of only being the 15th largest of the 39 LEPs.

No less than £84.2million has been confirmed in the first year, and as part of the Government’s on-going commitment to the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, it has identified a further £149.6million of funding from 2016/17 onwards. The deal will help to create up to 4,000 jobs, allow more than 6,000 homes to be built and generate up to £140 million in public and private investment.

The key features of the deal are:

  • Releasing growth potential through essential transport improvements to motorway junctions and railway lines as well as building new roads which support job creation and enable the release of more land for homes and businesses.
  • Supporting the renewal and growth of Blackpool through a range of projects totalling over £9m which collectively aim to boost the visitor economy, improve housing standards in the private rented sector, including through a £26m loan. We are also exploring how key services get better at supporting people back into work.
  • Growing the local skills and business base, with £30m allocated for activities to improve skills across the county, which includes £6.2m for the development Blackpool and Fylde College facilities in preparation for a new Energy HQ.

The Growth Deal will fund projects across the whole of the county, from a brand new £17m Health Innovations Park in Lancaster, to a range of projects for Blackpool, £6m to enable us to complete improvements to Preston city centre, £6m to improve junctions along the M65 as part of the Burnley-Pendle Growth Corridor and £2.6m for the East Lancashire strategic cycle network.

Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal

The Growth Deal builds on the success of the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal, which was official launched by Lord Heseltine on 10 June to an audience of local political and business leaders.

The event marked the beginning of work on the ground as part of the project - worth more than £430 million - to deliver economic growth, new jobs and homes over the next decade by delivering substantial new roads and other transport and infrastructure improvements.

Business leaders came to hear first-hand from central government and local partners, including me, about how the City Deal will help accelerate growth in Lancashire over the next ten years. It was fascinating to hear Lord Heseltine's views on the vital importance of central government loosening control and letting people take funding decisions at a local level, particularly in the context of the work we are doing here in Lancashire.

West Lancashire

This year has also seen exciting progress in West Lancashire.  Work is well underway on the county council's £2m Youth Zone in Skelmersdale town centre, which is part of a broader £20m redevelopment scheme.  And the county council's draft Highways and Transport Masterplan for West Lancashire contains exciting proposals to link Skelmersdale to the rail network with a new rail station and bus interchange in the town centre, as well as plans to reduce congestion in Ormskirk.  The Lancashire Growth Deal also include a commitment to look at improving rail links for Skelmersdale. I'll talk more about what we're doing in West Lancashire in a future blog.

Transparency

The LEP's successes have been built on our reputation for making things happen.  The challenge now is to prove to central government and to people here in the county that that reputation is justified.  Part of maintaining that confidence is being open about the LEP's activities so I will use this and other channels to ensure that you are all kept well informed about our progress.

I hope you have an enjoyable summer. I'll return with my next update in September.