Hoping for cash boost from funding

REGENERATION chiefs are hoping for good news when the Government announces the latest round of funding from a scheme aimed at giving the economy a shot-in-the-arm.

The Regional Growth Fund (RGF) is a pot of money that organisations and businesses can bid for and an announcement on successful round three bids is expected imminently.

Stephen Catchpole, managing director at Tees Valley Unlimited (TVU) which is leading the area’s regeneration, spoke at a meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council’s cabinet committee.

He said bids worth around £170m had been submitted and an announcement is due this week, possibly today.

The funding bids are confidential but he was able to tell members that the Peel group had made a bid for funding to improvements to Durham Tees Valley airport, that TVU had submitted two bids, one for funding to set up a loan scheme for businesses and another for a performance bond scheme.

The other major bid was a consortium of businesses who had applied for funding towards an apprenticeship scheme.

Durham Tees Valley Airport has applied for the RGF money to help it carry out the project creating a freight and logistics operation at the site, which will cost £5.9m and take 10 years to complete.

The expansion could create around 1,500 jobs and new roads will be built and transport services improved on 150 acres of land south of the runway at the airport.

Mayor Stuart Drummond said there had been a lot of criticism nationally about the RGF scheme and about the time it took for funding that had been awarded to be actually paid out.

Damien Wilson, the council’s assistant director (regeneration and planning) said the Government was quick to announce indicative funding allocations, but the actual funding can take up to six months to come through as a result of the due diligence in place.

He added that firm’s business plans had to be robust, while Mr Catchpole said that while some of the delays have been because of the companies themselves, the process has quickened.

Mr Catchpole said: “Even if it is an imperfect system, it is the only act in town at the moment and we have been pressurising companies to put in bids because that is the only significant bids they will get.

“We think this week there could be an announcement regarding RGF3 and we are sitting and waiting for some good news.”

Hartlepool was particularly successful in round two with five town companies receiving awards including Heerema, Huntsman Tioxide, PD Ports, Able UK and J&B Recycling.

Hartlepool received 55 per cent of the round two allocations made in Tees Valley.

Mr Catchpole said businesses in the region needed to see banks lending more freely so that they have the confidence to invest.

He added: “We need to exploit whatever opportunities that we get and work hard to attract more jobs here.

“Inward investment is very important.”

Mr Catchpole said it wasn’t just about RGF funding and there would be £376bn of European funding available between 2014 and 2020.