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Highland Council Submits Levelling Up And Community Renewal Fund Bids

18th June 2021

The Highland Council has submitted bids to the UK Government's Levelling Up Fund and Community Renewal Fund totalling over £80 million.

When the Chancellor set out details of the Levelling Up Fund in March 2021 the Council was advised that they could submit one transport bid and one bid for each of the three Westminster constituencies. The deadline given for the bids to be submitted was today, Friday 18 June.

At the Council meeting on 13 May it was agreed that the transport bid would centre around the delivery of improved roads and other infrastructure for communities and visitors along the North Coast 500 route and this investment be tied in with an expansion of Electric Vehicle Charging Points.

The project that has been submitted is for the development of infrastructure needed to support the continued growth of the NC500 tourism route, and to ensure that the increase in tourist usage does not impact on access to the key employment sites that lie on the route. To achieve this, the bid includes investments in road and bridge improvements at 10 key sites along the 500-mile route where challenges around congestion and safety have been identified. It also includes investment of £7.4 million in electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, public transport interventions and active travel interventions. Tourism site accessibility improvements have been included to spread the economic benefits of the route more evenly across the North Highlands and to minimise the impacts of inappropriate visitor parking on the efficient flow of vehicles. This will include improved roadside parking and improvements to access routes to tourist attractions as well as traffic flow monitoring equipment

The bid for the Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross Constituency is to create investment, employment opportunities and population growth in the town of Wick and in the wider Caithness area. The bid submitted focusses on Wick becoming a centre for off shore renewable energy operations and to encompass various interlinked projects such as infrastructure works on the Wick Harbour outer seawall to attract further investment to the port, physical regeneration of the town centre and other active travel and environmental improvement projects.

The bid for the Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey Constituency is a major cultural and environmental regeneration project in the heart of Inverness, centred around linking up Inverness Castle, the Northern Meeting Park and Bught Park.

Under the banner of the Inverness Zero Carbon Cultural Regeneration Project - the bid brings together the delivery of three i complementary projects that combined, will drive the environmental, cultural and economic regeneration of Inverness. The projects, located along the river in the heart of the city, will not only provide transformational cultural opportunities for residents and visitors but will create more accessible space and the proposed integrated renewable energy sources will deliver economic benefits to local businesses and help meet the UK and Scottish Governments’ zero-carbon targets.

The Ross, Skye and Lochaber Constituency bid is to create a comprehensive regeneration scheme to develop the gateways to Fort William, the Outdoor Capital of the UK and Portee. This will include investment in physical regeneration of cultural and heritage assets as well as the important transport related assets of Portree Harbour. Due to time constraints and the work required to prepare a comprehensive and credible case, the decision has been made, following discussions with stakeholders, that the development of the bid will continue and that it will be submitted at a later round, which is expected to be in the autumn of this year.

The Leader of The Highland Council, Councillor Margaret Davidson said: "We are in a competitive process, so a lot of work has gone in to making sure our bids are really strong and focussed and fit in with the criteria. Firstly, I want to thank our staff, our partners and our communities for working together in a very short timescale to bring a huge amount of work together. The bids reflect our ambition, the aspirations of our communities and our commitment to making a difference. Now more than ever we need this injection of funding to kick start our economic recovery and to promote growth. After dealing with the many challenges the Covid-19 pandemic has brought we need to move forward and see regeneration and investment on the ground in our communities."

The UK Community Renewal Fund (UKCRF) is predominantly aimed at revenue projects that can be completed by the 31 March next year. Unlike EU Funding the UKCRF is competitive and the metrics being used by the UK government means Highland has not been classed as a priority area. This means all bids submitted must meet the higher threshold score of 80% across the set criteria to be shortlisted. Priority areas have a much lower scoring threshold of 50% and are expected to form the majority of successful applicants.

A total of 17 applications were received and after all been assessed against the criteria by the Council, the following 7 have been shortlisted

SCVO - £228,285
Georgemas Hydrogen Hub - £114,744
We are Radikl - £92,750
Dornoch ACIC - £57,132
Fort William ‘Links to the Water’- £50,000
Great Trails in Highland Communities - £118,000
Russian Arctic Convoy Exhibition - £115,864

The decision now rests with the UK Government and is expected to be made by late July onwards, providing a maximum of 8 months for projects to deliver and spend as outlined in their bids.

Chair of the Economy and Infrastructure Committee, Cllr Trish Robertson said: “I want to thank everyone who put forward a project. The criteria and timescale to submit bids has certainly been challenging. All the 7 short listed projects have had to prove they are deliverable within the tight timescale of 8 months following a decision being made and are a strategic fit to other key investment priorities such as developing skills, creating employment opportunities and directly benefiting communities and businesses. Totalling £776,755.61, the strong 7 bids reflect a significant amount of money that could bring much needed invested across Highland communities. We now need to wait for the UK Government to make their decision and then work to deliver.”

A report will be discussed during the meeting of The Highland Council next Thursday in order for members to homologate the bid submissions for both the Levelling Up Fund and the Community Renewal Fund. Members will also be asked to agree that work continues on the Portree/Fort William bid for the next round of the Levelling Up Fund application and that the Council, as a priority, continues lobbying on its future share of the Shared Prosperity Fund.


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