Council to create £2.5m pot to support major regeneration projects

Northumberland County Council plans to put another £2million in its regeneration pot to ensure opportunities aren’t missed to get major projects off the ground.

Monday, 1st April 2019, 5:00 pm
Updated Monday, 1st April 2019, 5:03 pm
Northumberland County Council

At its meeting next Tuesday (April 9), the authority’s cabinet is being recommended to approve the addition of £2million to existing funds of £550,000 to create a a £2.55million regeneration development reserve.

It was explained to members of the council’s corporate services and economic growth committee, at a meeting on Monday (April 1), that there are a variety of different funding opportunities emerging through the likes of the North of Tyne Combined Authority, the Borderlands Growth Deal, the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP) and other government funds.

However, the majority of these require projects to be supported by high-level and complex business cases, so the reserve would be used to support those and other feasibility studies, research, design work and analysis necessary to enable important projects to bid for these funding opportunities.

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The pot will be ‘a fund of last resort’, only available for high-priority projects on the council’s regeneration investment pipeline, and it will not be widely advertised.

Heather Smith, from the council’s economy and regeneration service, said: “This funding would be targeted at projects in the pipeline that we can deliver in the next three to five years.”

The report explains that it is anticipated that requests for funding will range from £5,000 to £500,000, however, there will be flexibility depending on the nature of support required.

Under the proposed scheme of delegation, bids of up to £100,000 could be signed off by the head of economy and regeneration in consultation with the cabinet member for economic development, while those between £100,001 and £500,000 would need the approval of the chief executive together with the leader of the council. Anything above £500,000 would go to the cabinet for a decision.

Ms Smith told the member that ‘very, very few’ would be up to £500,000; there may be one or two for around £250,000, but the majority would be around the £100,000 mark.

In response to a question about the delegation limits, Paul Johnston, interim executive director of place, said these were chosen in line with the existing limits the council uses.

Where possible, any development costs that can be recouped from the external funding would be put back into the reserve, although councillors were told that in around 80 per cent of cases, spending prior to the approval of grants cannot be claimed back.

However, Mr Johnston emphasised that this reserve was to be used in cases where opportunities would otherwise be lost, adding that it’s ‘a small price to pay’ to get a multimillion-pound development off the ground.

These high-priority pipeline projects could be taken forward by the council itself, Advance Northumberland or external partners, but where external, there would be close monitoring from the economy and regeneration service.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service