£25m Levelling-Up bids snubbed after PM meet

By Jake Chown  
Sunday 7th November 2021 5:00 pm
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BIDS for £25 million from the UK Government’s Levelling-up Fund to improve two county town centres have been unsuccessful - following a private meeting between council leaders and PM Boris Johnson to explore funding opportunities in September.

Disappointment has been voiced after Monmouthshire Council’s applications for the multi-million projects in Monmouth and Caldicot were not included in the list of successful bidders for round one of the £4.8bn fund.In Monmouth, the £11m project included the creation of a modern visitor attraction and community asset in the Shire Hall, major investment in Monnow Street and Blestium Street to enhance the public spaces whilst modernising the public facilities, and reimagining how the Market Hall could become an asset for businesses and the community.In Caldicot, where £14m funding was sought, plans included the modernisation and upgrading of the leisure centre, the acquisition and repurposing of a major retail block in the town centre and the creation of an enhanced public area and active travel links.Some six weeks ago, council leader Richard John (Welsh Con, Mitchel Troy) and deputy leader Sara Jones (Welsh Con, Llanover) met the PM in his private office in the House of Commons to discuss funding opportunities for the county.The pair also held talks with the Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart MP and the then Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick MP, whose department oversaw the scrutiny of bids to the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund.Local MPs also lent their support for Monmouthshire’s bid, with David Davies, Conservative MP for the Monmouth constituency and Jessica Morden, Labour MP for Newport East Constituency, endorsing the submission.David Davies said at the time: "I am delighted to endorse the submissions for the Levelling Up Fund."If successful, this funding will make a significant difference to Monmouth and help improve the infrastructure in the town and what the town has to offer to visitors, residents and businesses."Jessica Morden added: "The bid is an opportunity to bring funding to some fantastic projects that will greatly improve Caldicot for residents, businesses and visitors."Having seen the presentations on the future plans, I am very pleased to formally endorse the proposals".But neither scheme won funding, with none of the 10 accepted bids in Wales in Gwent.Jessica Morden said she was "really disappointed" that the Caldicot bid had been ’overlooked.’"This was a positive, cross-party and community-focused bid which would have made a real difference, redeveloping the leisure centre and providing new money for the town centre," she said.Ms Morden said she will be seeking discussions with Monmouthshire Council about future options.Caldicot councillor Tony Easson said he was "very disappointed" by the news."It’s going to put Caldicot back 10 years," he said. "The funding was needed for the leisure centre revamp and for bringing the town centre up to the 21st century."There’s a lot of deprivation in my ward and the town needed a lift as well."Cllr Easson has submitted an emergency member’s question ahead of a full council meeting this week asking about the impact of the decision on the area’s economy.A spokesman for Monmouthshire County Council said: "We are very disappointed that the bids were unsuccessful, but we will listen to the feedback and decide how we might now proceed."We understand that while our bids were not successful on this occasion we may bid again in the future."Based upon this, we will decide on how we might proceed and what alternative funding strategies might be adopted if necessary, but we believe the bids are robust and delivering the projects remains important to these communities and to the council overall."

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