What could Leyland do with £25m - and will it ever see the cash?
Leyland has less than a month to complete the first part of a bid which could see it secure up to £25m from a government scheme to help regenerate urban areas.
South Ribble Borough Council will have to answer dozens of questions to demonstrate that the area should be considered for a share of the cash from the recently-announced Towns’ Fund.
Just a month later, a new board will have to be convened – made up of representatives from the public and private sector – which will draw up an investment plan to pitch to government during 2020.
Successful bidders will receive money to invest in skills, redevelopment and better transport links.
There was cross-party support to press ahead with the tight timeframe for Leyland’s application – but the ruling Labour group said that it was “sceptical” about whether the scheme would ever come to fruition.
“This is, potentially, really exciting…but it’s all ifs, buts and maybes – we don’t know how much, if anything, we are going to get,” said Cabinet member finance, Matthew Tomlinson.
The government announced in September that it had set aside £3.6bn – with 100 towns shortlisted and invited to bid.
Conservative opposition member Phil Smith said the only thing that could stand in the way of Leyland’s success would be a poor pitch.
“It seems to me that the money is available, it’s been announced by the government and will benefit Leyland immeasurably – but the quality of the bid and the board will be the make or break [factor],” Cllr Smith said.
But there was disagreement over the exact area which should benefit from the cash if the bid is successful. The government had stipulated an area which excluded Midge Hall and Cuerden, but the council will officially request that both areas are included in Leyland’s application.
However, Farington West member Karen Walton claimed that her ward had been treated unfairly – with the western part of it left out of the boundaries for the bid.
“Farington West and the parish council area would be cut in two,” Cllr Walton said.
But Cllr Tomlinson said that the authority would be “pushing its luck” if it tried to extend the Leyland application to include areas of “leafy countryside”.
“The half of Farington West which is not in this [bid] is the half for whom urban regeneration is not really an issue,” Cllr Tomlinson said.
Leyland has already been allocated £162,000 to help fund preparations for its bid. Its investment plan will have to provide evidence of opportunities which will could lead to econmic growth.
Preston and Blackpool, which are also on the Towns’ Fund shortlist, will have to meet the same deadlines as Leyland.