CHESTER has been given more than £20million as part of a new Government “growth deal” to generate jobs and prosperity in the North West.
Yesterday the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, announced the Cheshire and Warrington LEP (local enterprise partnership) would receive £142.7million over the next two years.
As part of the announcement at the University of Chester’s Science and Technology Campus at Ince, near Chester, he outlined a number of projects to receive funding.
These include £13.5million for improvements to the Chester Inner Ring Road, the city’s proposed new bus exchange and £6.8million to go the Thornton Science Park which will fund their energy demonstrator to help research new technologies.
Mr Duncan Smith also announced Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Housing Revenue Account borrowing limit will increase by £7,500,000 to help support the development of new affordable homes.
The Government is giving a total of £1billion to LEPs in the North West over the next two years in a bid to grow the economy.
In Cheshire and Warrington the Government is aiming to improve the transport links, invest in Science and Technology and in sites for employment and housing.
The projects they have earmarked throughout the region they say will create 9,000 jobs, see 500 homes built and generate up to £50million in public and private investment.
To do this £20.1million will be given in the first year and a further £122.6million in 2016/17.
Mr Duncan Smith, who also attended a meeting at the JobCentre in Shotton during his visit to the region, said: “Today is about decentralisation. It all about the process of revitalising local economies and letting those decisions be taken locally.
“The projects we are announcing today will benefit Chester enormously and the transport links will help that massively throughout the Atlantic Gateway [Manchester-Liverpool-Cheshire] which will bring prosperity to the whole of the North West.
“The development in technology in Cheshire is huge. This facility [Thornton Science Park] is remarkable and one that shows this region is becoming a centre of excellence.”
Christine Gaskell, chairman of the Cheshire and Warrington LEP said: “We have worked hard with our partners to present a strong case for this injection of funding into the sub-region and this allocation will provide the platform we need to put our Growth Plan into practice.
“It is now our responsibility to work with all our stakeholders to deliver our plan and transform our economy providing more jobs, more housing and a better skilled workforce for Cheshire and Warrington.”
In addition to the Government’s commitment to invest £6.8m in the Thornton Energy Demonstrator, other partners and stakeholders have committed to investing a further £11m into this project.
Drawing on the capital equipment, facilities and experience of Thornton Science Park and the academic expertise of the University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering based there. The Thornton Energy Demonstrator will help energy companies to test at scale new power saving and distribution technologies, enabling the development of low cost, environmentally responsible sources of energy. It will also explore behavioural aspects of energy consumption over the next 30 years.
The University of Chester’s portion of the funding forms part of the Government and the Cheshire and Warrington LEP’s commitment to support the expansion of science and innovation.
“It adds value to the projects already being developed on site and supports the next stage of the vision, which should see the university form part of the upcoming energy systems catapult development.
Formerly the Shell Technology Centre, Thornton Science Park is a new state-of-the-art facility housing the university’s Faculty of Science and Engineering, including the School of Computer Science and Mathematics.
It is also home to the newly-developed High Growth Centre,
co-funded by the University of Chester and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The High Growth Centre offers Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and new start-up businesses valuable advice and support.
Prof Tim Wheeler, vice-chancellor of the University of Chester, said: “The university is delighted to have received support from Government for this important initiative that seeks to contribute to resolving one of the big issues that face contemporary society about energy security and sustainability.”
Cheshire West and Chester Council leader Mike Jones said: “I am delighted the Government has seen the fantastic facilities and opportunities available at Thornton Science Park. Our partners in the University of Chester are transforming this site into a national centre of excellence for engineering which will provide hundreds of high quality jobs and the development of new engineering businesses.”