UP TO 26,000 jobs could be created as Dorset sees an investment of millions of pounds in a deal announced today.

A strategic plan for Weymouth town centre, an extinct species memorial on Portland and new technology facilities at Kingston Maurward College near Dorchester are among projects sharing in a £12.6 million investment pot for Dorset.

The Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has agreed an expansion to its Growth Deal with the government which will see an extra £12.6m invested in Dorset between 2016 and 2021.

This is in addition to the £66.4m announced last summer.

The Dorset Growth Deal is part of a long term plan to devolve at least £12 billion from central government to local economies creating thousands of jobs and new homes and attracting millions in public and private sector investment.

Concern was expressed last year that the lion’s share of the Growth Deal funding was supporting projects in the east of the county.

Weymouth and Portland will be getting a share this time round, including for the development of its town centre masterplan, bringing together potential developers, residents and the business community.

The masterplan is a blueprint for the future and will guide thinking on particular areas including the Pavilion peninsula and ferry terminal, and ideas to revive the town centre.

Meanwhile, funding will enable College to invest in cutting edge equipment and infrastructure facilities to develop the capacity of business in the agriculture technology sector.

Other projects to attract funding include the Mass Extinction Monitoring Observatory (MEMO) – a high profile tourist attraction on a Portland cliff top.

The spiral tower, which is based on a design by David Adjaye, is earmarked for a site at Bowers Quarry.

Dorset Green technology park at Winfrith will receive funding to help it ‘realise its full potential’ as a business site encouraging new businesses to join its current anchor tenants QinetiQ and Atlas Electronic.

LEP chairman Gordon Page said: “This expansion of our Growth Deal is very good news for Dorset as we take another step to realise the vision of our Strategic Economic Plan.

“I am particularly pleased with the mix and geographic spread of the projects. We will now move to the implementation stage as we have done with our successful Growth Deal projects agreed in July 2014.

“The total of government funding secured for both deals is £79m with further bidding opportunities to follow.”

n Other projects receiving funding are A338 road improvements in Bournemouth and a new building at Bournemouth University and Arts University.