The government has confirmed £866million of funding towards housing projects across the country last week, and it was great to see the South West receive a sizeable chunk of the pot.
Ten projects here in Devon and Cornwall were given over £55m towards vital infrastructure which will pave the way for thousands of much-needed new homes to be built more quickly.
The local projects to benefit, via the Housing Infrastructure Fund, are Hayle Harbour (£5.6m), West Carclaze near St Austell (£2.3m), North Prospect in Plymouth (£2.8m), Dawlish (£4.2m), Greater Exeter (£3.7m), Junction 28 of the M5 at Cullompton (£10m), the Eastern Urban Extension at Tiverton (£8.2m), Landkey near Barnstaple (£2m), the Southern Extension at Ilfracombe (£6.5m) and the North-South Relief Road at Axminster (£10m).
Elsewhere, five projects in Somerset received £28m and five in Dorset were given £16.5m. Across the whole of the South West, the government allocated over £140m towards 27 projects.
This investment in our region is most welcome as it will help to deliver the homes we desperately need and improve communities through good infrastructure. I am delighted that more social homes will be built too, delivering genuinely affordable home for local people.
Also last week, it was reassuring to read the letter by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling which confirmed that improving the rail line at Dawlish was his “number one national priority”, and that he was hoping for “a planned solution as quickly as practical”, backed by £15m of funding.
Mr Grayling made a number of other commitments regarding rail transport in the South West, including an instruction to GWR to draw up plans to introduce regular passenger services between Exeter and Okehampton.
He also confirmed track upgrades and maintenance, re-signalling between Totnes and Plymouth to enable more frequent services, £9m of funding to enhance the sleeper trains to Penzance, progress of flood resilience work at Cowley Bridge and on the Exeter to Waterloo line and an assurance to look at other ways to speed up journey times.
The improvements to Truro station continue with resurfacing and improved lighting of the carpark.
This summer we can all look forward to the introduction of new high-speed Intercity Express trains on the Great Western route, with extra capacity at peak times.
We shouldn’t forget that the government is also in the process of consulting on several major road upgrades in the South West, including a new section A30 between Carland Cross and Chiverton Cross in Cornwall, the A358 near Taunton, the A303 near Yeovil and the A303 near Stonehenge.
Once all the work is complete, motorists will have a direct dual carriageway or motorway route from Camborne to London and the South East, without the need to go via the M5 and M4 around Bristol.
Meanwhile, at the Budget in November the government committed £79m towards the planned £85m, four-mile link road between St Austell and the A30.
I am delighted that the Hall For Cornwall (HFC) has secured a £2m investment from the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the last piece of public funding required to deliver a £20m rebuild of its venue which will bring jobs, economic growth and world class culture to Cornwall.
The exciting project will see the auditorium increase to 1,354 seats, enabling HFC to attract top West End productions, promote local talent and revitalize the night-time economy of Truro.
The LEP’s investment comes from the Government’s Local Growth Fund and will support the creation of 1156m2 of cutting edge workspace to nurture Cornwall’s booming Creative Industries sector. This sum is in addition to £2 million I secured from the Treasury. A Creative Tech Hub will include support for post-graduates, new talent and start-up businesses to create a new digital and creative cluster. A further £2m of European Regional Development Funding (ERDF) has already been secured for this element of the project.
As Julien Boast, HFC’s CEO and Creative Director commented: “Cornwall deserves a theatre that will continue to inspire, educate and engage and bring the best productions in the country to Cornwall.”
I am delighted that this project will now be going ahead. It will be a major boost to the Cornish economy and culture and I am proud that this Government, along with Arts Council England, Cornwall Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund, European Regional Development Funding (ERDF) and, most recently, the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) have been able to work together to bring much needed investment to Cornwall.
The creative economy is growing, it already employs 27,000 people in our region and we want to be the destination of choice for creative businesses. The Creative Industries are now worth over £90bn to the UK and this growth is reflected in the Cornish economy, with the number of creative businesses increasing by 26% between 2011 and 2016. The redevelopment of HFC will create a cluster of start-up businesses that will nurture creative and entrepreneurial talent and, most importantly, retain it in Cornwall.
Work to rebuild HFC will begin in July 2018 with the new building being unveiled 2020. During construction, HFC will host a series of open days to welcome the community to view the build’s progression.
It’s great to see the government backing Cornwall and the South West.