A £25million investment in the regeneration of communities across County Durham is to be presented to councillors for approval.
Durham County Council’s Towns and Villages Investment Plan commits £20m to the county’s most disadvantaged communities and, following the significant support and opportunities identified through consultation, a further £5m is proposed for communities across County Durham.
The council’s Cabinet will be asked to approve the plan, which would maximise more than £750m of investment already committed across County Durham. It would do so by realigning existing budgets and ensuring they are used alongside the extra money to support all communities in addressing their issues and priorities following the coronavirus pandemic, helping them to recover as soon as possible.
These challenging times have led to a fundamental rethink of the way the authority currently delivers activity on the ground. Building on the consultation carried out and developing a clear picture of the challenges communities face, the council will, subject to Cabinet approval, work closely with partners using its resources in delivering what residents say is needed for recovery.
The plan aligns the key priorities for investment to the council’s ‘Vision’ by setting out five agreed themes. These are Strategic Investments; Housing and Community; Environment and Health; Built Environment; and Transport and Connectivity. Towns and Villages provides a commitment to the county’s most disadvantaged communities, which were impacted more by the pandemic, providing an equitable approach to regeneration as well as the particular challenges faced by rural communities.
As part of agreeing the strategy in October, Cabinet agreed to invest £20 million to ensure additional resource is directed to communities and programmes with identified needs.
The money would be used alongside existing council budgets, mainstream investment by partners and to attract additional expenditure to coordinate and maximise local funding opportunities.
In October and November, online consultation events were held by the council’s 14 Area Action Partnerships, to give members of the public the chance to highlight current challenges and opportunities in their communities. Cabinet will hear that more than 1,000 comments were received from those who attended and how these responses have informed how the money would be spent.
Members will be told that the council has considered those comments and how these have shaped the Towns and Villages Investment Plan, which sets out a programme of spend from this year to 2024.
Councillors will be asked to support the £20m agreed in October going to the county’s most disadvantaged communities. They will also be recommended to support an additional £5m being allocated to Towns and Villages, to help communities across County Durham address their own local priorities including building community resilience to help them to recover from the impacts of the pandemic.
This further financial commitment, which would take the total value of the investment plan to £25m, would be divided between the 14 AAPs. Each would have a budget of £300,000 to support projects which address some of the challenges and opportunities identified during the consultation.
Cabinet will hear that the plan is intended to maximise over £750m of investment ongoing across the county which is being delivered through the Towns and Village programme. Members will hear that the council’s commitment through the programme has been the catalyst which has resulted in significant regeneration projects; including acquiring sites and putting forward land to deliver strategic investment.
A report to the meeting sets out how the council’s commitment to the £10.5m opening of Horden Rail Station brought about £4.4m in funding from the Department of Transport and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership. Furthermore a £600,000 commitment by the council through Towns and Villages was the catalyst for a multi-million investment in the redevelopment of the Festival Walk shopping centre at Spennymoor.
Cllr Carl Marshall, the council’s Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “We are immensely proud to bring forward for Cabinet approval the £25m Towns and Villages Investment Plan, including its additional £5m commitment to regeneration of communities right across County Durham.
“This plan is all about ensuring the best return from the £750m of regeneration which is ongoing across the county, including projects like Horden Rail Station and Festival Walk, which our support through Towns and Villages has made possible.
“The plan sets out a programme of investment for the next three years, which reflects the feedback we have had from people all over County Durham.
“It would ensure an equitable approach to regeneration by ensuring our most disadvantaged communities benefit, and also that towns and villages across the county are supported in both addressing the challenges and opportunities identified during the consultation, and their long term recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are committed to ensuring that the investment made through Towns and Villages is co-ordinated with other expenditure by ourselves and our partners; and that our budgets and projects are all aligned to priorities that communities have identified, for the benefit of residents.”
The Cabinet meeting takes place on Wednesday 10 February at 9.30am and can be viewed online at https://www.youtube.com/user/DurhamCouncil