Could Ipswich be in line for a £25m bonanza from the government?
- Credit: Suzanne Day
Ipswich, Colchester and Lowestoft are among 100 towns and cities that could be in line for a £25m boost from the government to help bring them into the 21st century.
The government has launched a new Town Deals programme with money from the Department for Housing and Local Government - and is inviting bids from communities across the country for funding for projects with a focus on improved transport, broadband connectivity, skills and culture.
The new scheme was unveiled by Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick as part of a £3.6bn fund.
The bids are expected to be co-ordinated by Local Enterprise Partnerships with support from local authorities and business leaders.
Chris Starkie, Chief Executive of New Anglia LEP which covers Ipswich and Lowestoft, said: "This is great news for Suffolk. Additional funding will help to support projects to improve productivity and skills and deliver inclusive growth.
"New Anglia LEP has proven success in bidding for government funding through our Growth Deal and City Deals - which have secured over £290m to be spent locally - and we are keen to play a role in helping our towns submit compelling bids."
Mr Jenrick MP said: "Ensuring that prosperity and opportunities are available to everyone in this country, not just those in London or our biggest cities, is at the heart of the mission of this government."
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Ipswich Labour MP Sandy Martin welcomed the principal of the award - but has still to be convinced about how much will end up coming to the town or what it can be spent on.
He said: "They say there could be up to £25m coming to the town. That could be £2.5m or £2.50! We need to know more about what the money can be spent on.
"Having said that, with the team under the umbrella of the Ipswich Vision Partnership with both borough and county councils, Ipswich Central, the LEP, and the Chamber of Commerce there is no reason why we could not put a good bid together."
He was convinced Ipswich had a good case: "There is no point in this kind of money going to a community that is already very successful, or to somewhere that is already dead on its feet. But to a community like Ipswich where things can happen, it could make a big difference.
Ipswich Conservative candidate Tom Hunt gave the news an unequivocal welcome: "I'm delighted that Ipswich is one of the places that will benefit from the new Towns Deal fund.
"When talking to local residents I lose count of the number of times the state of our town centre has come up in conversation.
"If spent in the right way the £25 million provided by the Government could give Ipswich town centre a massive boost.
"I encourage Ipswich Borough Council to engage fully with every section of our community when deciding how to invest this money."
Lowestoft's bid is being backed by East Suffolk Council, whose leader Steve Gallant said: "This is fantastic news for Lowestoft at a really important time.
"We have already begun developing a high-level vision for the future enhancements to Lowestoft and this funding opportunity will provide us with an outstanding opportunity to capitalise on this work.
"Working closely with partners such as Lowestoft Town Council, Suffolk County Council and business groups, we are seeking to develop an ambitious masterplan for the town.
"This Government funding stream will enable us to approach this work with greater confidence and we are very excited about what this could mean to such an important town, its residents and businesses."