The list of North Northants projects that could be in line for the Government’s Levelling Up cash has been revealed for the first time – but only one is in a ‘left behind’ area.
Millions could be going to Chester House, a new Redwell Leisure Centre or the Stanton Cross Rail Over-bridge from the Government fund designed to support economic prosperity in the areas of the country where it is most needed.
North Northamptonshire is in the Government’s priority one category and is submitting a bid for cash from round two of the Levelling Up Fund (LUF).
The seven projects shortlisted by council’s LUF panel are:
Chester House – £750,000 for phase 2 of the £16m NNC-owned farmhouse and cultural centre in Irchester which opened last year. Their bid includes a 19th century greenhouse.
Adrenaline Alley – £6.35m for a 1,500 seat elite and community centre of excellence at the privately-run Corby skate park that received £453,000 in Government grants during 2020 and 2021
Stanton Cross Rail Overbridge – a £6m bid from developer Stanton Cross LLP for a new bridge to link the new housing development along route 2 to the south east of the town
Greenway Active Travel Link – £7.74m for the safe pedestrian and cycle route between Wellingborough and Rushden
Environmental improvements to Kiln and Minerva Way areas – £2.16m for the bid submitted by housing association Greatwell Homes in the left-behind Queensway area of Wellingborough
Redwell Leisure Centre – an NNC scheme bidding for £7.234m for a new Redwell Leisure Centre in Wellingborough
Corby Town Centre – a further £3.5m for the pedestrian / cycle link from the station to the town centre submitted by NNC
What happens now?
The bids will be discussed at next Thursday’s (June 16) public NNC Executive meeting at the Corby Cube where members will vote on whether to delegate to the LUF panel any future decisions on which schemes are taken forward. The panel is made up of senior council officers and councillors but does not meet in public.
Only brief details of each proposed project are available but each scheme will also need to provide some external or council funding in order to get the go-ahead. North Northants did not submit a bid to last year’s round one of the LUF as the authority did not consider there to be any suitable projects. The second round, which has a deadline of July 6, is focused on transport, regeneration and town centres, and culture.
During March and February, the authority had asked for proposals from community organisations, individuals and from staff within its own ranks.
What is the council saying?
A report to members of the executive states: “Whilst North Northamptonshire is a Priority 1 area, it must compete with all other areas in England for funding and indications are that round 2 will be massively oversubscribed. It is therefore vital that NNC takes an objective approach and presents a case which has the strongest chance of success.
"This means prioritising projects which are likely to score best against the Government’s criteria. The impact and benefits of some of these projects will extend far beyond the immediate locality and help to attract additional visitors, spend and investment to the North Northamptonshire area. This means that there will be wider indirect benefits to other towns and rural areas.”
Which bids didn’t make the grade?
NNC received 59 wide-ranging bids which were rejected including:
A plan to relocate KGH outpatient facilities to empty town centre offices
A north-east to west cycleway linking Kettering’s Grange estate to Telford Way
The upgrade of the William Knibb Centre, the Grange shopping complex and a new Family Hub.
Phase two of the GLAM project
A new Kettering swimming pool and leisure centre
Education and safe spaces for young people, submitted by anti-knife organisation Off The Streets.
A cycleway from Stanton Cross to Wellingborough Town Centre
A multi-purpose facility to provide permanent accommodation for an arts and community centre, including creative, media and the third sector.
A youth hub in the town centre
Improvements within the Hazel Leys and Kingswood communities including open spaces, multi-use games areas and community initiatives
A regenerated Rushden town centre including a new town square and a public green space linking High Street, Duck Street, and the wider regeneration area.
A Station Square for Rushden.
The demolition of Higham Ferrers sports pavilion and the building of a new community hub with changing facilities, meeting rooms and a library.
Who will decide which bids go forward?
Consultants paid with the help of a £125k government grant to the council will now scrutinise the shortlist to ensure the bids are suitable before they return to its LUF panel.
North Northamptonshire can submit up to four bids, each for up to £20m from the LUF. Projects must be finished by March 2025. The fund also allows bids for a major transport project with a cost of between £20m and £50m. Although NNC had considered a joint submission with WNC for further dualling of the A43, it was not considered that there was sufficient time to develop a strong business case.
But what about other areas?
The council has also acknowledged that there are no projects in Kettering or East Northants on the shortlist.
Their report states: “However, there are specific projects, such as the Kettering Station Quarter Masterplan, an extension of the Greenway along the Ise Valley to Kettering and beyond, and emerging town centre regeneration proposals for towns such as Rushden and Higham Ferrers, together with others, which with further work have the potential to be prioritised by NNC for future bids via LUF or other funding streams.”
The council has also pledged to draw up plans for its ‘left-behind’ areas on the Hazel Leys and Kingswood estates in Corby, Avondale Grange in Kettering and Queensway in Wellingborough. They say future cash could be available from the government’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund and the Multiply (supporting adult numeracy) initiative.
Earlier this week, a meeting of the Government’s Public Accounts Committee released a report calling into question the awarding of £17bn of Towns Fund cash from the Department for Levelling Up.
Their report said that principles for awarding funding were only finalised by Ministers after they knew who, from the 170 shortlisted bidders, would win and who would not. The committee has recommended that in future, the committee recommends principles for awarding funding must be determined before shortlisted bidders are disclosed to ministers.
They said: “Despite billions spent on local growth policies over many years, the Government still does not have a strong understanding of what works. Local authorities have faced a confusion of different funding pots and have had to respond piecemeal to each new announcement over the years. What is needed is greater certainty so local authorities can plan and deliver the right investments that make a difference in their areas.”