Lancashire has been welcomed into the Northern Powerhouse “family” with a £70m golden greeting.
Prime Minister Theresa May announced the cash boost on a visit to the region.
The move finally dispelled fears that the Red Rose county could be trampled underfoot by the big cities in the scramble for devolution investment across the North.
The £69.8m, which on top of previous funding could help generate up to 11,000 local jobs, create 3,900 homes and attract £1.2bn in extra investment over the next five years, comes only weeks after Lancashire officially became a Northern Powerhouse partner. Welcoming the Prime Minister’s announcement, Edwin Booth, the chairman of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, said the county had now demonstrated to the Government “our ambition, appetite and capacity to become a key economic force within the Northern Powerhouse”.
Amongst the major Red Rose projects to benefit will be the NW Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre at the Lancashire Enterprise Zone at Samlesbury near Preston.
The South Lancaster Housing Growth Initiative, to build a garden village linked to the expansion of the city’s university, is also on the list.
Blackpool is to get a 21st century conference centre and hotel at the Winter Gardens to re-establish the resort as a leading national conference destination.
Other schemes winning funding include key transport infrastructure improvements for Blackburn and Darwen on the M65 motorway, the extension of the Lomeshaye Industrial Estate at Nelson and a North West Burnley “growth corridor” to unlock new housing and employment opportunities in Padiham.
“The Government has challenged all regions to be bold and ambitious with regards to bids for funding,” said Edwin Booth, chairman of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
“But it has also demanded that delivery is managed in a rigorous, accountable and impactful manner.
“Lancashire has proved with previous large scale funding projects, such as the City Deal and earlier Growth Deals, that it has the ability to effectively utilise public money to leverage significant private sector investment.
“We have also demonstrated to government our ambition, appetite and capacity to become a key economic force within the Northern Powerhouse, driving sustainable and transformational growth throughout Lancashire which is aligned to both the LEP’s long term strategic priorities and the government’s vision of a resurgent, productive and prosperous North.
“This is why we have been continually successful in securing high levels of government funding to help us unlock the considerable commercial potential Lancashire has to offer, which will be delivered through a combination of infrastructure, skills and enterprise initiatives.
“We now look forward to working with Government and industry partners to play our full role in delivering the new national industrial strategy. ”
This latest award of ‘Local Growth Funding’ is on top of £251m of Growth Deal funding already awarded to the LEP.
Simon Blackburn, leader of Blackpool Council and chair of the Lancashire Combined Authority, added: “The LEP and the combined authority have worked very hard to develop a prioritised and robust Growth Deal submission, which directly supports the Government’s growth objectives, the delivery of Lancashire’s Strategic Economic Plan and our emerging devolution deal priorities.
“The LEP is starting, rightly, to be recognised as high performing by government, and by other key stakeholders. Confidence in the county’s ability to deliver is rising as we develop a strong and dynamic Combined Authority model which is on schedule to be in place this spring and will further reinforce Lancashire’s reputation as a driver for growth and prosperity. The success of this bid is testament to the virtues of working together across Lancashire.”
Graham Cowley, Chair of the LEP’s Growth Deal Management Board, said: “The key priority investments secured through this Growth Deal allocation are set to create thousands of new jobs and homes across Lancashire through a diverse mix of major industrial and infrastructure schemes.
“Initiatives like the AMRC at the Samlesbury Aerospace Enterprise Zone reaffirm Lancashire’s position as the UK’s leading region for aerospace and advanced manufacturing activity, meaning we can continue to compete on a global scale for more advanced engineering and manufacturing contracts.
“In contrast, the new £38m Winter Gardens complex in Blackpool will create a world-class business tourism destination at the heart of the UK’s most popular coastal resort.
“In terms of improved connectivity we have also secured significant backing for several ambitious transport plans, including the reconfigured Junction 33 on the M6 which will spearhead a major housing and road scheme for south Lancaster, creating a new connection between the University of Lancaster and Lancaster city centre.”
Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce commented: “This is a clear commitment from government to back business post brexit to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of economic growth for years to come.
“The funds allocated to the Northern Powerhouse is set to address the future needs of industry and consider potential new markets which will certainly deliver economic impact, jobs and growth across the North.”
The Lancashire windfall came as part of a £556m boost for the Northern Powerhouse revealed by Mrs May.
But Labour attacked the announcement saying the money, while welcome, would not make up for the cash lost in cuts to council budgets in the North.