Plans to submit new bids for multi-million pound government Levelling Up funding and investment in regeneration aimed at improving the lives of residents in County Durham will be discussed by councillors this week.
Durham County Council’s cabinet will hear how investment could be earmarked for feasibility studies for Levelling Up bids to regenerate Durham City and the county’s towns and villages.
This would take place alongside broader investments which would unlock sites for housing and employment and support the labour market.
At the meeting, cabinet is to be updated on the authority’s 2022/23 budget proposals and Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) forecasts, after details of the Local Government settlement figures were revealed in December.
Members will also hear how the council faces significant and unavoidable cost pressures totalling over £45m next year, with £19.5m of this being driven by inflationary and demographic pressures in statutory adult and children’s social care services.
Detailed in the report to Cabinet are a range of investments, including £5m towards Levelling Up Match Funding.
The council is able to submit five further capital bids to the Government’s Levelling Up programme after its success with a first bid for funding for Bishop Auckland.
County Durham, with six parliamentary constituencies, is able to submit up to six bids for the value of up to £120m.
A total of £3.2m is also likely to be spent on the emerging Towns and Villages Strategy, with the funding enabling consideration to be given to how the council can support the need to refocus County Durham’s town and village centres.
The money will aim to provide a diverse range of functions, including employment, commercial, leisure, community, residential, healthcare and education to meet the needs and wishes of local communities.
A £5m Disabled Facilities Grant is set to provide significant support to the most vulnerable groups across County Durham, with adaptations helping people to remain in their own homes and live independently.
And over £2.7m could be used to deliver the Local Transport Plan, which contributes to both the County Durham Plan and the Regeneration Statement. The allocation is at the core of delivery of transport improvements across the county.
Match funding has been allocated in the next financial year of the MTFP towards construction costs for the new Ferryhill Rail Station, while £500,000 is required to complete public realm works from Penny Ferry Bridge to the Riverwalk development in the Framwellgate area of Durham City.
Arising from the Playing Pitch Strategy which has been approved by Cabinet, a new £250,000 ongoing maintenance regime for sports pitches will also be put in place, as well as a £300,000 programme to replace equipment in theatres.
Cllr Elizabeth Scott, the council’s cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “We’re excited about our further bids to the Levelling Up fund and hopeful that these will be successful in improving the lives of residents across County Durham as part of our wider, comprehensive programme of regeneration work.
“It is vitally important that we look to maximise all of the opportunities to make the county an even better place to live, work and visit, increasing employment and housing opportunities in the process and making the area more connected through better transport links with significant investment in our highways.
“This also builds on our proposals to create a new Inclusive Economic Strategy in which we harness the county’s strengths and address areas for improvement. As well as being a major economic force, we are a vibrant, inclusive county and one of just eight locations now vying to be named UK City of Culture 2025.
“We will be keeping our residents up to date with our various regeneration projects as time goes on as we strive to keep on improving County Durham for all.”