Boosting the south west’s infrastructure is a key current and future priority, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander announced on a visit to the region today (Monday 2 March).
The south-west infrastructure package, the first of its kind, will see the government focusing on improving the region’s road, rail and businesses from the Isles of Scilly to Exeter. These investments will provide a huge boost to the region’s economy: a total of 38 projects, worth nearly £23 billion, are in the south-west infrastructure pipeline – this is equivalent to spending over £4,000 per person.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said:
The south-west’s economy is being held back by the region’s poor infrastructure, which makes it difficult for residents, businesses and tourists to get around this beautiful region. That’s why I’ve created the south-west infrastructure package, a wide-ranging plan that covers road, rail and air links throughout the area. Altogether, infrastructure projects worth £23 billion are in the pipeline for the south-west.
I’ve prioritised infrastructure investment in government, including £2.3 billion for flood defences and £15 billion of road improvements, much of it going to the south-west. That’s because the only way to guarantee a stronger economy is to invest in long-term infrastructure projects that genuinely create jobs, boost business and improve quality of life, which all help ensure a fairer society.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander announced:
- the launch of a £5 million business investment fund
- £5 million business investment fund for the Heart of the south-west at a business event organised by North Devon+
- businesses across Devon, Plymouth, Torbay and Somerset will be able to apply for grants of between £25,000 and £499,000 through the government’s Regional Growth Fund
- Unlocking Business Investment programme has been specifically designed to help small businesses to grow, creating employment across the region by unlocking investment opportunities and developing new markets
- programme will be delivered as a partnership between North Devon+ and Plymouth University and is supported by the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership
- Improving transport links across the south-west
- Chief Secretary prioritised improving air links through the Regional Connectivity Fund, which has invested £2.5m (on top of £300,000 from Cornwall County Council) to ensure that the Newquay – London Gatwick route can continue to fly.
- following this passenger numbers have increased by 30% on this route, with over 17,000 people using it in the first two months of operation.
- government is now working with local partners to investigate the best way to ensure a reliable link between Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, including if there is a case for direct government support. This could include a ferry, fixed wing planes or a helicopter service
- creating a National Infrastructure Plan for Skills
- government will create the first-ever National Infrastructure Plan for Skills to ensure that the UK has the skills it needs to maintain and deliver world-class infrastructure.
- improving the North Devon Link Road
- south-west of England will benefit from seven new road schemes worth around £2 billion, creating an estimated 1,300 construction jobs
- as part of the south-west infrastructure package, Danny Alexander is today tasking the local authorities and local enterprise partnership to urgently create a business case for investment in this road
- this will ensure that improvements can form a part of their bid for the next Local Growth Funding round
- setting a timetable for south-west rail proposals
- government has already announced a South West Peninsula Task Force to align proposals for strategic and local rail schemes over the next twenty years
- today, the Chief Secretary announced that he has asked the Task Force to bring forward their proposals by June 2016, ensuring they will be ready in time for consideration in the next tranche of strategic rail investment to be announced in July 2017
- one of the projects they will be looking at is how to improve the Salisbury to Exeter train line
- boosting European infrastructure investment
As well as securing further government infrastructure investment in Cornwall, the Chief Secretary is working to ensure that this area benefits generously from EU investment in infrastructure, by:
- actively supporting Commissioner Juncker’s ambitious plan for investment in infrastructure across the EU, which involves a guarantee fund that will seek to leverage over €300 billion in investment across Europe
- supporting Cornwall in their bid to get more independence in how their structural funds programmes are run, to maximise local control
- working within the EU to ensure that new structural funds programmes for the latest seven-year EU budget framework are agreed as soon as possible, and working across government to support the delivery of existing structural funds projects