Minister backs huge town growth scheme but still ‘a long way to go’

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 18 Sep 2017

GRIMSBY’S proposed regeneration scheme – which is predicted to boost the town’s economy by £200 million a year – received a “very positive” response from a minister, according to MPs.

North East Lincolnshire MPs Melanie Onn and Martin Vickers met with Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry in Parliament to discuss the Greater Grimsby Project, a council and private business-backed scheme to revitalise the town centre.

They were also joined by Neale Coleman, a consultant at the David Ross Foundation – which is helping to coordinate the project – and Councillor Peter Wheatley, the Cabinet member responsible for regeneration at North East Lincolnshire Council.

It was the second time in less than a fortnight that Mr Berry had been briefed on the concept, having met with members of the project board while on a visit to the South Bank of the Humber recently.

The 10-year Greater Grimsby Project aims to grow the local economy by than £216 million per year, create up to 5,400 jobs across the revitalised ports and waterways, while also building 7,700 new homes and improving the residential and leisure offer in the town.

But the scheme would need, according to the plans, a five-year investment plan which entails securing up to £36.9 million of new government funds to deliver the key projects.

Ms Onn, said the minister’s response for the “exciting and ambitious” project was “very positive”, and that the Government appeared to be listening to town’s plans.

“Despite concerns that the Government might not be open to pursuing the plans, the minister was very positive about the opportunities presented during the meeting,” said Ms Onn. “The minister was keen to see some elements of the plan developed further in anticipation of further meetings later in the month.

“The key will be to keep the channels of communication between the board, council and DCLG [Department for Communities and Local Government] open to keep pushing for this large scale regeneration project in the heart of the town centre.”

Mr Vickers,  said there was “still a long way to go” to convince the Government to part with its cash.
He said an upcoming meeting between DCLG officials and members of the project board would key in getting ministers on-side.

“The plans clearly need tweaking here and there, and need more focus to make it fit with the strict criteria that they [Whitehall officials] have to work in,” said the Conservative MP. “The reality is, this is a competitive business. It will only get through all the official steps if it ticks all the boxes.

“There are limited government financial resources to put into these projects on top of all the city deals and devolution deals that they’ve agreed.”

The MP said there was an acknowledgement from Mr Berry that the Grimsby and Cleethorpes area did not qualify for the city investment deals, despite its population size, and so could argue for a more bespoke investment model from government.

“We need to show that we are not just looking for hand-outs, but investment in a positive scheme,” said Mr Vickers.

Both DCLG and the Greater Grimsby Project board were contacted for comment.

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