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Weymouth misses out after major government handout for Dorset
WEYMOUTH has missed out on securing much-needed regeneration funding while £66 million is going to Bournemouth and Poole.
Concerns were expressed today that the borough – which is in need of an economic boost and could be losing its cross-Channel ferry service – had been overlooked in a deal that will see large amounts of money invested in the east of the county.
The proposed Jurassica visitor attraction on Portland is the only project in this area to get backing.
The government today announced that £66.3 million Growth Deal funding will be invested in Dorset through the Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) economic bids that will create thousands of jobs, allow thousands more homes to be built and trigger millions in public and private investment.
It was heralded as a ‘major step forward’ for the Dorset economy by LEP chairman Gordon Page.
While it is acknowledged that not all the 50 Dorset projects were going to get support –only six have – it is argued the announcement is heavily weighted in favour of the conurbation.
Most of the funding will support a package of road schemes to improve access to the Port of Poole and Bournemouth Airport. There is also money for a research centre at Bournemouth University to attract innovative orthopaedics businesses to Dorset, plus funding for new engineering, manufacturing and business service facilities at Bournemouth and Poole College.
The Dorset LEP stressed ‘no one has lost out’ and this was the first stage in a process with other bids being brought to the table for consideration in the next round of funding.
Among unsuccessful bids were the Western Growth Hub, a Weymouth regeneration project designed to unlock the area’s economic potential including supporting the development of the Pavilion peninsula and improved ferry terminal facilities. This is among the avenues being explored to finance the refurbishment of a berth for a new super-ferry Condor Ferries wants to buy.
It was stated in the bid that Weymouth is an area of ‘relative depravation’ and needed a boost to instil confidence in the private sector to invest.
Borough council leisure and tourism spokesman Cllr Rachel Rogers said: “It’s great to see the government investing large amounts of money in Dorset but it’s disappointing so much of it is directed towards the east.
“This area has struggled and it would have been good to see this funding spread more widely.”
She said Weymouth and West Dorset was ‘grossly underrepresented’ on the LEP board so the announcement was ‘not surprising.’ The borough’s economic development spokesman Cllr Ray Nowak added: “There needs to be a more holistic approach with all areas taken into account. There are pockets of high deprivation here and we need investment.”
Nigel Reed of the Weymouth Business Improvement District (BID) said: “We need expenditure here just as much. There’s a feeling in the business community that the LEP is Bournemouth and Poole-centric and there should be more people on the board from this area who can influence discussions.”
IT’S not all bad news – an amount thought to be £300,000 has been awarded to kick start a feasibility study in the first phase of the Jurassica project, Science journalist Michael Hanlon’s vision to build a subterranean geological park in an old quarry on Portland.
Jurassica, which would cost more than £60 million, aims to celebrate the unique geological heritage of the Jurassic Coast.
As well as creating hundreds of jobs it could boost the economy by around £7 million a year.
The project has the support of a host of businesses as well as high profile figures including Sir David Attenborough.
Michael Hanlon said yesterday: “If the government is indeed in a position to support Jurassica, which we very much hope it is, this will be a massive boost to the Jurassic Coast and will help to revive the economy of one of the most beautiful but neglected parts of the country.
“Whatever happens we’re very grateful to the LEP team who have been assisting us.”