Cross-border partners take next step towards £400m Borderlands plan
Northumberland is poised to reap major benefits from multi-million pound investment through the Borderlands Inclusive Growth deal.
It follows the announcement of a £394.5 million deal from the UK and Scottish Governments earlier this year.
The Heads of Terms have now been announced which confirm a number of programmes and projects that will be developed and delivered over the coming years.
Smaller rural market and coastal towns across the Borderlands region will benefit from an investment programme to help boost economic activity. Each town identified will develop a plan for how funding will be spent to support their revitalisation.
Further details on the selection of towns in Northumberland will be announced over the next few months.
A dedicated Business Infrastructure Programme will involve the council working with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and Advance Northumberland to identify sites and premises in the county that will best respond to economic opportunities and can help to unlock business investment and growth.
Raising the profile and appeal of the Borderlands as a place to visit and supporting new visitor attractions is a key priority, and a Destination Programme has been designed to do this.
Specific reference is made in the Heads of Terms to support for the Alnwick Garden’s planned ‘Lillidorei’. This spectacular play village will convert the Alnwick Garden into a multi-day, all-year round, visitor destination.
Investment in a new Berwick Theatre and Conference Centre is also a priority, with The Maltings Trust currently exploring the best options to create a modern, multi-use space as a catalyst for a wider cultural regeneration of the town.
Northumberland County Council is also looking to use the Destination Programme to lead activities at Hadrian’s Wall and the wider Roman Frontier; with provision of new routes, infrastructure and visitor attractions to appeal to new audiences and encourage greater visitor spend along the length of the Wall.
This will also link with a Walking and Cycling Routes project which will seek to establish the Borderlands as a national and international destination for outdoor recreation, by enhancing the existing network of long-distance walking and cycling routes and creating new ones.
Digital and mobile connectivity is critical to future business performance of the area and even more so for dispersed rural communities. This is recognised in the Heads of Terms and the Borderlands partners will progress the development of a business case for investment in digital and mobile infrastructure.
An energy master plan will be prepared for the Borderlands which will drive the agreed capital investment of £31 million in green energy projects. The investment opportunities will include trials for new energy generation and carbon reduction schemes as well as off-grid renewable energy schemes that will support inclusive growth through reducing energy costs for local communities.
Sign up to our daily newsletter
The i newsletter cut through the noise
There will be opportunity for stakeholders from across the county to get involved in the development of the energy master plan over the coming months.
Finally, the deal will designate the whole of the Borderlands area as a Natural Capital Innovation Zone aimed at getting maximum value from our precious and asset-rich countryside. Within this, there is scope to collaborate with the forestry sector to develop a centre of excellence to showcase innovation that would improve productivity across the whole wood and timber supply chain.
Peter Jackson, leader of Northumberland County Council said: “This is the latest milestone in a long journey, and fantastic news for the county, after we’ve been working with the UK and Scottish Government over many months to get to this point.
“Although we don’t have the final confirmed levels of funding yet, by being referenced in the Heads of Terms these major investments are very much on the horizon and we will now work tirelessly to bring them all to fruition.
“As part of this we are keen to engage local people and businesses on this journey - with the next Borderlands Conference on Monday, October 7 at Charlton Hall, near Alnwick set to provide a great opportunity for that wider discussion.”
The signing of the formal agreement, which took place at the Mountain Bike Centre of Scotland at Glentress in the Scottish Borders, is a major step towards the funding of agreed projects and programmes put forward by the Partnership to the two governments.
Scottish Secretary David Mundell said: “It’s fantastic news that the UK Government is to invest up to £265 million in the Borderlands Deal. This is an ambitious approach to cross-border working between Governments, local authorities and partners which will boost economic growth by helping existing business, encouraging new ventures and bringing a wealth of improvements to people who live and work in the area and to visitors.
“The Borderlands Deal has made huge progress in the last 18 months. I'd like to thank the five local authorities who have worked so well together, along with the UK and Scottish governments, to achieve this.
“The south of Scotland and northernmost parts of England operate as a single economic area and it is important the border is not allowed to become an obstacle to development.”
Minister for the Northern Powerhouse, Jake Berry MP, said: “This once-in-a-generation deal will deliver unprecedented investment in the Borderlands region while strengthening our cross-border links.
“We have moved closer to finalising a deal which will deliver over 5500 jobs, dramatically improve transport and digital connectivity, boost tourism and generate around £1.1 billion of economic benefits for the region.
“With the combined strength of the UK, Scottish and local governments, let’s use this Borderlands Deal to realise a new era of regeneration, inclusive growth and limitless economic opportunities for the Borderlands and the whole of the Northern Powerhouse.”
You can find out more about the Borderlands Growth Deal at www.Borderlandsgrowth.com