Southport will receive £37.5m from the Government’s Town Deal Fund, having originally asked for £50m, and the town will now prioritise five major projects. Tony McDonough reports
Southport’s £37.5m Town Deal funding from the Government will be spent on five projects that it is hoped with transform the town’s economy.
Southport Town Deal Board had originally asked the Government for £50m to for a range of projects it believed would best boost the town’s economy. Now the board has selected five projects they believe will stimulate other funding and investment opportunities.
While the four out of the five projects focus on Southport’s strongest asset, its leisure and tourism sector, the list also includes a plan for a new business incubator aimed at small and start-up firms. Rachel Fitzgerald, chief executive of Southport BID, has been pushing to diversity the town beyond the visitor economy.
Writing for LBN late last year, she said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown into sharp focus how towns and cities that rely heavily on a single sector are more vulnerable to economic shocks… we must begin to expand our thinking and create a future vision for Southport that will offer people real opportunities. A thriving, diverse place where people will come to live and work.”
The five projects are:
- Marine Lake Events Centre – This will transform the existing Southport Theatre and Convention Centre into a distinctive entertainment and business events venue.
- The Light Fantastic – The creation of a UK-first light, water and sound show in Southport’s Marine Lake to attract visitors from further afield and encourage them to stay for longer in the town.
- Enterprise Arcade – Refurbishment of Crown Buildings to create new business incubator space, supporting Southport’s emerging creative, digital and tech sector.
- Les Transformations de Southport – The project will start to deliver high quality public spaces and an accessible and well-connected transport network, providing priority for walking and cycling in support of clean growth.
- Building Better Customer Experience – This project will work with a wide range of stakeholders and businesses to deliver a range of training and development programmes for everyone who has contact with visitors and customers in Southport.
The Town Deal funding will cover the full costs of some projects but not all, and there is still a significant amount of funding required to meet all the projects in the Town Investment Plan. Securing further public and private funding, including from The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, will be equally as important to ensure successful delivery of the wider projects.
This includes not only the projects above, but also some of the other developments included in or stimulated by the Town Deal. Project Barnum, an indoor visitor attraction at the Southport Pleasureland site and led by Universal Rides, is still proceeding. The new Southport Market project is also close to completion.
Leader of Sefton Council, Ian Maher, aid: “We are looking forward to the next phase of the Town Deal and building on the good work of the board. The council will now develop and deliver robust final business cases for the projects which will demonstrate the full benefits of each in economic and social terms.
“This step will be completed in the next 12 months, after which the £37.5 million promised by government would be delivered.”
Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, added: “Like many people, I’ve got lots of happy memories of going to Southport as a kid. It’s great to see these exciting projects to help breathe new life into the town moving forwards.
“Southport is still a vital part of our region’s visitor economy and I’m sure this funding will assist in the regeneration of what is one of the North West’s great seaside towns. I’ll be continuing to work closely with Sefton Council to support their plans for the town and the wider borough.”