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Seaport town seeks first of its kind economic regeneration deal

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A seaport town in Yorkshire and the Humber is set to become the first place of its kind to enter a devolution-style agreement with the government.

The proposed Greater Grimsby Town Deal seeks to regenerate the town and accelerate economic and housing growth in the area. It will be overseen by the the Greater Grimsby Board made up of former chancellor Lord Lamont, former head of the Civil Service Lord Kerslake, senior North East Lincolnshire councillors and the local authority’s chief executive Rob Walsh, as well as local business representatives and government officials. The board will be chaired by local entrepreneur David Ross.

While no specific powers will be transferred from Whitehall, the agreement will commit central government to provide at least £37m in funding and support for specific projects over a 10-year period and is being billed locally as a potential blueprint for how similar towns across the country work with central government on regeneration.

It is hoped the deal, which builds on discussions senior councillors and officers at North East Lincolnshire Council held with government as part of the collapsed Greater Lincolnshire devolution deal, can be agreed in time for the autumn Budget.

A formal bid is due to go before North East Lincolnshire’s cabinet next Monday where it is expected members will approve its submission to ministers. 

Ray Oxby (Lab), leader of North East Lincolnshire Council, said: “What we propose submitting to central government isn’t just a bid for funding, it’s an invitation to join us in a locally-led partnership to redevelop the town and increase our contribution to the national economy.

“In recent years we’ve seen a lot of news about city deals and the government’s industrial strategy. What we’re proposing, after months of talks with the Department for Communities & Local Government, is a new way of working with towns to deliver jobs and sustainable growth.”

Victoria Flour Mills, Grimsby

Victoria Flour Mills, Grimsby

Source: Picture taken by Reading Tom

Victoria Flour Mills, Grimsby

The deal would commit the council to delivering major projects identified in its draft local plan and adopted economic strategy, including piloting the development of a free trade zone for the Humber Ports, establishing a new higher education facility in Grimsby town centre, and redeveloping the historic Victoria Flour Mills into a leisure/cultural facility.

It is estimated the town deal could create up to 5,400 full-time equivalent jobs, result in the delivery of 7,700 new homes, and generate an additional £216m a year in economic output.

The report cabinet said: “The town deal will also unlock additional support from government including brokering of relationships, capacity building, piloting new policy freedoms and flexibilities and improved coordination of existing funding streams.”

If the proposed town deal is approved, the Greater Grimsby Board will “have its role enshrined” in the agreement signed by ministers, the report said.

The council, however, will be responsible for delivering projects with support from its regeneration and outsourcing partner Engie.

Delivering the deal “will require a commercially-driven approach and deployment of significant, dedicated resources”, the report said. “A project delivery team will be established, led by the council, supported by and including council staff and Engie capacity, expertise and resource as well as prospective seconded capacity from the Homes and Communities [Agency] and other government departments.”

The project delivery team will be funded through the town deal and existing council/Engie budgets – North East Lincolnshire Council has already committed £17.3m capital funding for the Victoria Mills work and the South Humber Industrial Investment Programme.

A “housing development investment fund” has also been established using capital receipts anticipated from the council’s surplus land, the report said. “This fund, together with any central government investment received through the town deal, will be used to help the council to accelerate the delivery of key town centre housing sites.”

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