The Council could be set to bid for up to £55m of Government funding to support regeneration and growth across the Borough, as the council’s Cabinet considers a report on the Level Up Fund.
The Levelling Up Fund was launched by the Government in March 2021 to help support town centre and high street regeneration, cultural and heritage assets and highways improvement projects. Each local authority can make bids that total the number of MPs within their Borough, and highways authorities can also bid for specific highways projects, so Southend is eligible for a total of three funding bid applications. Successful bids must be matched by at least 10% matched funding.
The report set for Cabinet (item 8, Tuesday 15 June) sets out the council’s plans to make two bids for round one of the Levelling Up Fund, alongside a commitment to a third bid in the second round. The two first-round bids relate to highways improvements and visitor economy projects. The report also includes a recommendation to approve required additions to the Capital Investment Programme to allow the council the meet the Levelling Up Fund requirement for 10% matched funding.
A further second-round bid is also set out for cultural and heritage assets once bidding opens, which is expected to open later this year. This bid would be in tandem with Rochford District Council.
Highways bid (round one bid – highways authority specific):
The report sets out a proposed bid of £15m for highways improvement projects at three pinch points in the town’s road infrastructure: Harp House roundabout, A127 Victoria Avenue junctions with East Street and West Street and with Fairfax Drive and Prittlewell Chase, and A127 Progress Road and Bellhouse Road. If approved, the funding would see a mixture of works carried out to facilitate traffic flows including widened carriageways and extended right turn lanes to accommodate additional vehicle demand. Highways work will be subject to a thorough design process.
If successful, the funding would be spent over three financial years, with the main work completed by March 2024. The council will match this with £1.7m through the Capital Investment Programme, which would need to be added to the council’s budget through the council’s reserves.
Cllr Ron Woodley, cabinet member for transport, asset management and inward investment, said: “This administration is absolutely committed to improving the road infrastructure across the Borough, highlighted by the incredible commitment to investing £50m on our roads and pavements over the next five years. We know we can always do more, and if we are able to successfully receive Government funding to increase the spend on our highways, we know we are taking a step in the right direction.
“The town has a number of pinch points, and over the last 10 years we have seen numerous improvements, including Kent Elms, Tesco roundabout, and the current ongoing work at the Bell junction. The easier we make it to enter and leave the town by reducing journey times, the more enticing it becomes for visitors and also potential businesses.”
Visitor economy bid (round one bid):
Cabinet will discuss the option of a proposed bid of £20m for visitor economy improvements, and will be focussed on Leigh Port, the Cliffs Pavilion and wider safety measures. If successful, the work at Leigh Port will involve construction of a new quay wall frontage, improvements to site access, dredging of the area beside the quay wall and channel, and resurfacing of the wharf to make the port a safe place to work and visit.
If approved, the funding ringfenced for the Cliffs Pavilion would be used to improve the visitor experience by investing in hospitality, guest areas, and building refurbishments.
The wider safety measures would see an automated bollards system and other fixed measures installed in the High Street and implementing safety measures on the central seafront area that will visually improve the area, alongside environmental improvements and new fixtures. This includes new elevated rain gardens, granite type seating blocks and art installations.
The £20m funding, if successful, will be match funded by £5.5m, again through the council’s Capital Investment Programme, and works would be completed by March 2024.
Cllr Carole Mulroney, cabinet member for environment, culture, tourism and planning, said: “The Levelling Up Fund is a fantastic opportunity for us to bid for Government funding to improve and enhance our Borough following what has been an extremely challenging year for us all. If approved, this funding would go a long way in helping us not only maintain support for vital economic assets to the town such as Leigh Port and the Cliffs Pavilion, but will also hopefully see a further increase in visitors to the town.
“Our aim of becoming the number one staycation resort in the UK is certainly achievable. We have a fantastic visitor offer across the whole town, and with further investment we can solidify our position as a place people want to live, work and visit.
“It is important we bid for Government funding as it allows us to achieve much more than we can by ourselves. If we are successful in these bids, for every £1 we put in, Government will be investing £6, which is a really good return for our town and will help us drive up footfall and visitor spend, support key sectors and improve travel times.
“I am pleased the funding is also focussed on projects which help local authorities reach net zero carbon emission goals, a target we have set ourselves by 2030. If approved, this funding, alongside our Green City Action Plan, will help us on our way to that goal. I look forward to discussing this in detail with Cabinet next week.”
The third bid will focus on town centre culture-led regeneration and will be looked at for the second round of bidding. This is because bids for the town centre regeneration tranche require significant evidence of recent work, and the council will work closely with its partners to ensure the appropriate case has been prepared for the second-round bid. Further details of how much the council will bid for, and how this money would be spent, will be announced in due course.