Worcester’s MP has fully endorsed the proposals for a Town Investment Plan submitted to the Government’s Stronger Towns Fund and as a board member on the city’s Towns Fund bid he has welcomed the publication of a strong suite of projects.
He particularly welcomed the focus on the largest project, a regeneration proposal for Shrub Hill Station and its surrounding area that can bring new life to one of the key gateways to the city with around 100 new homes and an enterprise centre to support small businesses. Robin has used his position on the Towns Fund board to push for investment in areas of Worcester that have sometimes felt left behind and he has welcomed a strong focus on skills and transport improvements across Gorse Hill, Rainbow Hill and Warndon as well as a new construction skills centre for Dines Green.
The bid also includes exciting plans for a Health and wellness centre on the West side of the river which will support the University’s plans to expand its nurse training and deliver a medical school, something that he has long campaigned for and improvements to the riverside and heritage offer. It will also support active travel across the city with a number of cycle routes being boosted, a new river crossing for walkers and cyclists and a cycle hire scheme with conventional and e-bikes.
The government’s £3.6 billion Towns Fund is symbolic of the Conservative Party’s commitment to areas that have previously been previously overlooked from allocations of government funding. Worcester has already benefited from the Towns Fund through the Future High Streets Fund, which allocated £17.9 million to transform the Scala Theatre, Angel Place and the Corn Exchange and £3m of cultural funding to support the regeneration of the Arches.
Now, if the TIP is approved, Worcester could be set to receive the £28 million boost through the government’s Town Deals programme. 101 towns and cities across the country will receive the money that is designed to generate economic growth, level up opportunities, and create jobs for local residents.
Each Town Deal is managed by a board, made up of community leaders. As the local MP, Robin Walker is a member of Worcester’s Town Deal Board alongside Parish, City and County councillors, the Dean of Worcester Reverend Peter Atkinson, and representatives from Worcester’s business community. The Town Deal Board has consulted with residents and other members of the Worcester Community to make 6 proposals to government that will help improve the city.
The projects that will result from the funding are
- £5 million for community skills and enterprise training
- £3.5 million to create the ‘Severn Centre for Health and Wellbeing’ – a training centre for healthcare professionals including a GP practice, on-site therapy and rehabilitation clinics and prescribed classes in nutrition and exercise.
- £10.5 million to regenerate Shrub Hill and create an impressive gateway to the city that is more befitting of Worcester’s status.
- £2.25 million to promote the city’s heritage assets so residents and tourists can benefit from our rich heritage.
- £1.9 million to help make the most of the city’s place around the River Severn by promoting the local health and economic benefits of the Riverside.
- £4.8 million to invest in active travel that will connect communities and ensure there are more sustainable ways to move around the city.
Robin pressed hard during 2019 for Worcester to be eligible to bid for both the Stronger Towns Fund and the Future High Streets Fund and he has recently welcomed the success of its £18m bid for the latter. As one of only a handful of places eligible to bid for both funds, Worcester stands to benefit from as much as £46 million of government funding, more than £60m in total, if its second bid succeeds.
Some of the reasons why Robin believes that it should include:
- A strong profile of match funding with the £28m ask of the Government being fully matched by £28m of local funding
- Regional benefits of both the proposed Severn campus for Health and wellbeing and the Shrub Hill Regeneration offering the opportunity of jobs and economic benefits beyond Worcester
- Delivery of both affordable housing and employment opportunities
- Well targeted funding to some of Worcester’s areas of highest need including a range of initiatives to support employment and skills
- Valuable investments in active travel, particularly between areas of higher unemployment and the city centre, supporting both greener transport and employability
- Making the most of Worcester’s heritage and natural assets by linking cultural sites and the riverside
- Expanding on the potential of the fastest expanding University in the country for healthcare and supporting the local NHS
Commenting on the proposals and the Stronger Towns Fund process, Robin said
“I have always believed that regeneration offers huge opportunities for our city and ever since I was first elected I have campaigned to get more investment across Worcester. In my first term in Parliament I set up an all party group on regeneration and highlighted the potential of the Shrub Hill area. I am delighted that a £10.5 million project to transform this neglected gateway to our city is at the heart of the Towns Fund bid. However, I think we also have proposals on skills, on jobs, on supporting cycling to work and on investment across the whole city that will take this further and benefit many more parts of Worcester.”
“I am really pleased that the cross party, cross community group that were brought together to work on the Towns Fund have delivered such a strong portfolio of projects and I believe some of these are of regional significance. Along with initiatives to improve our connectivity through investment in rail, I believe that the plans for Shrub Hill and for the Severn Campus have the potential to support economic benefits even wider than Worcester itself.”
“By setting up the Stronger Towns fund back in 2019, the Government recognised that it is often local ideas and local leaders who have the best ability to influence change on the ground and announced its intention to build a stronger economy through local initiatives. It has been a pleasure to work with community leaders and councillors to deliver a plan which reflects the diversity and unique opportunities of Worcester today. Since then we have all felt the terrible impact of the covid pandemic and it is sadly a fact that the areas of highest need have been the hardest hit.”
“These interventions therefore could not be more timely or more keenly needed. I am glad that the projects in Worcester’s bid will help some of the parts of Worcester that need it most as well as strengthening our city centre and riverside. Worcester is already benefiting from the success of its excellent Future High Street’s bid, the cultural funding for the arches and the first £1 million of Towns fund money and winning the funding from the Towns Fund would make 2021 a record year for investment in our city. I am proud to be supporting a government that has driven forward such investments and I will do all I can to back this bid.”
Cllr Marc Bayliss, leader of Worcester City Council said:
“We are living in unprecedented times but, as our Town Investment Plan demonstrates, ambition and commitment have never been in short supply here in Worcester. We are confident that the plan we are preparing to government will produce a strong platform from which we can create more jobs and develop better life chances for local people. We have consulted extensively, and this plan reflects a wide range of views on how this could best be achieved.”
Cllr Simon Geraghty Leader of Worcestershire County Council said:
“Worcestershire County Council is fully committed to supporting these excellent proposals and we believe that the plans for Shrub Hill are of regional significance in their potential to improve employment and boost the economy. Alongside the Redditch bid for the Towns Fund these plans have the potential to be a game changer for the county, boosting connectivity, investing in skills and delivering regeneration.”