Sutherland considers local opportunities in City-Region Deal
14th September 2017
Members of Sutherland County Committee received an update on the City-Region Deal at their meeting on Wednesday 13 September 2017.
Chair of the Sutherland County Committee Councillor Linda Munro said: "The City-Region Deal is to be welcomed and it is a good thing for the Highlands. We are all keen to see the benefits of the Deal extended across the Highlands, and particularly to areas like Sutherland. We owe it to our constituents to challenge the priorities and the spend and to understand exactly how this translates to Sutherland. Transport - travel times, access and cost - remain a huge barrier for communities, especially for our young people and we need to ensure this does not prevent them from accessing City-Region Deal benefits.
"Connectivity is fundamental to our lives and our economy and we need progress with high speed broadband. The free wifi projects, which include Dornoch, will certainly help to transform the opportunities for people and businesses in many towns in the Highlands."
Leader of the Council Margaret Davidson said: “The Deal is a clear demonstration of the Highland Council's ambition to ensure that the City and the wider Highland region have a successful economic future.
“In Sutherland, we should look at opportunities around broadband and Wifi and housing for older people and for Sutherland's young people.
“The City-Region Deal is transformative and will position Highland as a region of opportunity. It focuses on the attraction and retention of young people so that they can contribute to and benefit from a growing and increasingly skilled economy. It will make a step change contribution to the long term productivity and economic growth of the region by investing in vital infrastructure, fostering innovation, supporting regional skills development and promoting tourism.
She went on to say: “I do understand the problems of connectivity across vast areas of the Highlands. I therefore question the use of £20million digital money for the R100 fibre based project and will press for some of this to be used to fund innovative solutions to reach all of Highland faster."
The City-Region Deal provides a significant package investing up to £315m into the regional economy. As part of this funding package, the Scottish Government will commit up to £135m and the United Kingdom Government will commit up to £53m. The Highland Council along with regional partners will commit up to £127m.
Led by The Highland Council, which is responsible for both the City of Inverness and the wider Highland Region, the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal is being implemented by a partnership between the Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, The University of the Highlands & Islands (UHI), and Albyn Housing.
Collectively, this funding package will be provided over a 10 year period subject to detailed business cases, statutory processes and implementation plans.
The projects include:
Identify and explore ways to extend digital coverage, including Superfast Broadband. This is pan Highland with funding of £20m from the UK Government. Discussions are taking place aligning this project with the R100 initiative and developing a Digital Action Plan. HIE is the lead partner for this project.
Along with this, funding has been made available for the free Ness WIFI project led by The Highland Council, and to extend the free WiFi to 14 towns across the Highlands, including Dornoch. Other towns will be considered in a later phase.
Science Skills Academy
Develop a network of STEMD learning centres (Newton Rooms). This is a pan Highland project led by HIE with funding of £3m from the Scottish Government. The Full business case has been approved and a project manager has been appointed. The first two Newton rooms will be in Caithness and Lochaber. All Highland schools will have access to Newton Rooms. Other locations are to be agreed.
Northern Innovation Hub
The creation of a Northern Innovation Hub to provide tailored support for high growth small and medium sized businesses across The Highland Council Area. This is a Pan Highland project led by HIE with £11m funding from the UK Government. Full approval of the business case is expected shortly.
Innovative assisted living schemes using the latest IT Healthcare to enable elderly people to live in their communities with homes planned for Dalmore and Nairn and other sites in the Highlands. This is a Pan Highland project led by Albyn Housing Association with £3m funding by the Scottish Government. Full business case approval is expected soon.
School of Healthcare and Life Sciences
The provision of additional funding for the commercialisation of life sciences at the new multi-disciplinary centre at the University of the Highlands and Islands School of Health. This is a £9m project led by UHI and funded by the UK Government. The Full Business case has been approved and recruitment has started.
Kessock Bridge Fly Over and East Link
Commitment to delivering the strategic A9/A96 Link Road (Eastlink – opens up land for housing development) and a commitment to the Longman Interchange, approved and test drilling underway. This project is led by Transport Scotland with £109m funding by the Scottish Government. Work on identifying the corridor option for the East Link continues and the option for Longman interchange has been agreed in principle.
Longman Land Remediation
Land remediation at Longman to support commercial development in Inverness – This is a £10m project, led by the Highland Council with funding from the UK Government. Test drilling is ongoing as part of the investigation work.
Development of a package of support to increase the availability of affordable housing for young people. This is a Pan Highland project with £5m funding from Scottish Government. The Full Business case has been approved. The first affordable houses are under construction on the Raining’s Stairs, Inverness. Further sites are to be acquired across the Highlands.
To work towards governments continuing to recognise the importance of effective regional air access working to consider mechanisms for promoting improved regional access.
Skills and Employability
Develop innovative approaches to delivering employability programmes across the Highlands.
World Class visitor attraction for Inverness and Highlands Signposting visitors to the many tourist sites across the Highlands. Part Business Case is with Scottish Government for Decision. A funding bid will be made to the Heritage Lottery Fund.