A £.6 billion fund to regenerate town centres across the UK is set to help build growth and regeneration in three parts of the Bradford district – although the level of support each will get will depend on the strength of bids put forward.
Keighley and Shipley, along with Brighouse, were all named as eligible for support of up to £25m from the Towns Fund.
The two towns in the Bradford Council catchment area, Keighley and Shipley, have been named jointly as one project, and will be treated as one specific town deal. And the Brighouse deal will be split with nearby Todmorden.
Members of the community, business leaders, councillors and MPs now have to come together to work out how best to plan a bid for investment from the fund.
Boosting productivity, skills and living standards
Announcing the scheme, Local Government Minister Robert Jenrick said it was part of a scheme to ‘level up’ the towns “by boosting productivity, skills and living standards”.
“The towns eligible for support from the £3.6 billion Towns Fund include places with proud industrial and economic heritage but have not always benefitted from economic growth in the same way as more prosperous areas,” he said.
“Communities, businesses and local leaders will now join forces to draw up ambitious plans to transform their town’s economic growth prospects with a focus on improved transport, broadband connectivity, skills and culture.
“I will work with local people from the 100 communities announced to agree proposals to invest up to £25 million in each place. I hope these deals will provide the investment and the impetus for long-term renewal ensuring each town can look to the future with a new optimism.”
Shipley and Keighley, and Brighouse and Todmorden, will have to work together to have funding allocated, and it remains to be seen how that will work when it comes to making bids.
A spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said: “They have been chosen to work together on proposals for a Town Deal, as in some instances, it makes sense to cluster towns where they have less than 15,000 population or are very close together.”
The actual amount any town will get is dependent on the proposals that come forward and deals being agreed, the Government has said.
But the potential investment has been greeted warmly in Shipley and Keighley as much needed to help rejuvenate both communities.
One ward councillor believes Shipley has been left behind a little bit – a claim disputed by the councillor responsible for regeneration – but is optimistic that the new money will help.
Cllr Martin Love said: “I’m pleased that we can get this sort of investment into Shipley but we need to make sure that the entire community is involved in making sure it’s properly spent.
“I would like to see, from a business point of view, that the market gets revitalised so it will be a more vibrant market place and that it can be out six days a week.
“These are places that are getting left behind a bit. You only need to look at Shipley to know that this has been the case all along. Money seems to be spent in the centre of Bradford than the outlying towns.”
Shipley MP Philip Davies said he is “pleased” the cash is specifically for improvements to Shipley.
The MP said he feels government has finally “listened” after months of lobbying for a high street boost.
“I am absolutely delighted we are getting this money,” he said. “I have been lobbying hard for government support for our area, setting out the case for regeneration and I am thrilled government listened and has seen how much potential the Shipley constituency has and what investing in it can achieve.”
Keighley MP John Grogan warned that the proposition is more of a “an invitation to bid rather than money in the bank.”
The politician said he is looking forward to working on all party “concrete proposals” with Keighley Business Improvement District, Keighley Town Council, Bradford Council and many more.
Cllr Alex Ross-Shaw, Executive Member for Regeneration, Planning and Transport, said: “I’m delighted that we’re on the list. Historically the government has overlooked the towns of Britain, where so many people live and work, so it’s refreshing and very welcome for Keighley and Shipley to have the opportunity of this investment.”
The need to invest in towns is recognised as a national issue
He disputed that Shipley had been left behind, saying the need to invest in towns was recognised as a national issue, and that despite Government cuts, the council had worked hard to help growth in both Shipley and Keighley.
“The government minister himself has acknowledged that towns across the country need to be ‘levelled-up’, so clearly this is a national issue.
“As a council working with partners we are investing to unlock growth in Shipley and Keighley. Current projects include the Shipley to Bradford road improvements, the Hard Ings road scheme, the District Growth Scheme and the new Business Development Zones, following on from Baildon Business Park, Keighley Market and Cliffe Castle to name a few.
“We look forward to working with local people and businesses in Shipley and Keighley on exciting plans to draw in this funding and get the best possible impact.”
MP for Calder Valley Craig Whittaker said: “Under the Governments Stronger Towns Fund we see Brighouse and Todmorden allocated £12.5m each for local development.
“This means that in conjunction with the local Council, local priorities like the bandstand in Todmorden or the redevelopment of the Brighouse Market can be achieved.
“I’m pleased to have played my part in securing yet more Government investment in the Calder Valley.”
Other West Yorkshire towns to benefit from the funding include Morley, Todmorden, Dewsbury, Wakefield and Castleford.
Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, Rt Hon Jake Berry MP, said: “The best answers for local people will come from local people, that’s why we have listened to people living in these towns and will support them with a mega £3.6 billion fund to drive jobs and economic growth.
“Five years on from the launch of the Northern Powerhouse, we are reaffirming our commitment to the people of the North so they have the support they need to be at the leading edge of a confident, global Britain when we leave the EU on 31 October.
“Once approved, new Town Deals will improve connectivity, provide vital social and cultural infrastructure and boost growth – with communities having a say on how the money is spent. Decisions on funding any proposals will be made in due course.
“The Town Deals Fund builds directly on the government’s commitment to decentralising funding and decisions away from Whitehall and investing in the growth of local economies and devolving powers through ambitious City and Growth Deals, providing more than £9 billion of funding to Local Enterprise Partnerships and introducing 8 metro mayors in England.”
The Government will soon publish a prospectus to guide towns through the process and set eligibility criteria for funding.