South Shields' Custom House is in line for a major upgrade. Credit: South Tyneside Council

Three succeed in third Levelling Up round

Newcastle, South Tyneside and Stockton-on-Tees, which plans to invest in Billingham town centre, all bagged around £20m in the latest tranche of regeneration funding.

Levelling Up Fund support is available to all local authorities through an application process, with the first two rounds awarding £3.8bn on a competitive basis to projects with one of the following themes: regeneration and town centres; local transport; and cultural and heritage assets.

The government said that it has moved away from this model for the third round, instead looking to recognise “high quality” bids that were submitted in round two: in total, 55 bids are to receive a combined £1.1bn.

“Priority places” were identified based on “levelling up need” metrics covering pay, skills, productivity and health.

South Tyneside: South Shields riverside transformation, £20m

South Tyneside’s package bid was highlighted as being “high quality and ready-to-deliver”.

The investment is intended to support three transformational projects: the relocation of South Tyneside College into South Shields town centre; a redeveloped Customs House and cultural quarter; and a flagship Centre of Excellence at the pioneering Holborn Renewable Energy Network.

The plans aim to boost footfall and visitor numbers and showcase the region’s expertise and innovation in low carbon energy.

Cllr Tracey Dixon, leader of South Tyneside Council: “This is fantastic news and I’m delighted that government has recognised the strength of our original bid.

“These three inter-connecting projects aim to boost the economic and social recovery of South Shields through culture, skills and the green economy.

“The borough is playing a leading role in low carbon innovation, and we are creating opportunities right on our doorstep. This investment will help us play to our strengths and ensure local people have access to the skills and training to capitalise on new green jobs.”

Proposals for the redevelopment of Customs House included new classrooms and a rehearsal space, as well as an outdoor performance area, while a landmark net zero centre at Holborn Renewable Energy Network would provide a venue for educational visits, skills training and research, and become a tourism attraction.

Planning applications for the college campus and student accommodation block have been submitted and are due to be determined.

The announcement follows the award of £20m after the borough was named a Levelling Up Partnership Area, and a further £20m for Jarrow from the Long Term Plan for Towns fund.

Newcastle: River Tyne regeneration infrastructure, £19.4m

The investment will see the development of a restoration facility on the northern bank of the river, at Bill Point. This will involve the construction of a reservoir, built out from the riverbank, to hold sediment dredged from the riverbed.

This will not only ensure the berths on the banks of river can remain operational, but will enable the safe deposit of dredged material containing elevated levels of heavy metals, avoiding the need to take these to a landfill site, which would be prohibitively expensive and environmentally damaging.

Along with other projects, this will help to sustain the use of the river and enable continued access to quays in order to support economic activities, unlock new jobs and meet the needs of the offshore energy sector.

Cllr Nick Kemp, leader of Newcastle City Council, welcomed the funding saying: “This is fantastic news for our region and for our important Tyne-based industries.

“Ship-building is an iconic part of our industrial heritage associated with the River Tyne and today the area has evolved into a global hub for offshore renewable energy manufacturing.

“This investment will help to secure the long-term future of this sector, safeguarding thousands of jobs, helping to create new opportunities and supporting work being done to improve the river environment.”

Industries based on the River Tyne generate £660m of benefits to the region annually and directly employ around 3,700 people, with a further estimated 110,000 local jobs indirectly supported by their economic activity.

The £19.4m investment will be topped up with a further £6.6m match funding provided by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and North of Tyne Combined Authority.

Stockton-on-Tees: Stockton North/Billingham town centre, £20m

In a case of third time lucky, a twice-overlooked application for Billingham has been awarded £20m, boosting the council’s regeneration plans for the town centre.

Much of the town centre is in private ownership, with which the council has worked in partnership over the last decade to fund and create public facilities and spaces. Projects include the likes of the refurbishment of Billingham Forum and Theatre, a new library and improvements to public realm.

The bid formed part of the ongoing town centres investment programme led by the Council, with a masterplan for Billingham currently being prepared to explore potential redevelopment opportunities in the town.

The masterplan will build on the previous findings from the ‘Let’s Talk About Our Towns’ public consultation in 2020, assess potential opportunities for future development and how they can be delivered alongside the owners of the town centre.

Cllr Nigel Cooke, cabinet member for regeneration and housing at Stockton-on-Tees Council, said: “We welcome this huge investment; it is vindication for our ongoing commitment to Billingham and aligns with our ambitions to bring about redevelopment alongside the town centre’s owners.

“We’ve got a strong track record for investment in the town and we’re working on a masterplan which we committed to in the summer to guide any future investment decisions.

“This is the first step in a journey for Billingham. It is a fantastic town with huge potential and we now have a golden opportunity before us to bring about real transformational change.”

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