Get involved! Send your photos, video, news & views by texting EJ NEWS to 80360 or e-mail us
At last - Worcestershire Parkway part of £53m cash injection for county
THE long-awaited dream of a new Worcestershire railway station is finally going to happen - as part of a £53 million Government and European cash injection to kick-start the economy.
Your Worcester News can reveal how yesterday's announcement - which will create 3,000 jobs - includes £7.5 million of Government funds to build Worcestershire Parkway on land at Norton near Worcester.
Worcestershire County Council's leadership says the award "will now make parkway happen", and has revealed officers are well underway with work on a planning application for the station which will be submitted in the first half of next year.
As part of the Government's award for Worcestershire, known as the Growth Fund, £13 million is being handed over in April 2015 and another £34 million will then be drip fed across during the following four years.
That takes the Growth Fund tally to £47 million, and Worcestershire’s Local Enterprise Partnership is adding £6 million of European cash to the pot to create a £53 million kitty for eight key projects.
The £7.5 million for Worcestershire Parkway will arrive in mid-2016, by which time the council hopes to have secured planning permission and taken ownership of the land needed to build it.
It is expected to include a 500-space car park, and the rest of the £10 million needed to fully fund the £17.1 million station will then come from a long-term loan paid for from parking charges.
As well as the Government's funding commitment the Department for Transport has agreed to support talks with train operators to ensure they use the two platforms at Norton.
They will serve current Cotswold Line services, heading to Oxford and London, of which talks are already advanced with the train industry, and cross-country services linking to destinations like Bristol and Cardiff.
The Department for Transport has also agreed to re-examine the "business case" for faster rail services to London.
Norton Parkway has been talked about for 30 years but the funding deal means it is now finally within sight.
The county council says it is aiming to get it into operation during the 2016/17 financial year, and has vowed to make it as big a success as Warwick Parkway.
Councillor Simon Geraghty, deputy leader and the cabinet member for economy, skills and infrastructure, said: "For decades people have talked about this - my message is that this is now finally going to happen.
"It's effectively got the green light from the Government and that means rather than talk about, we can now get on and deliver.
"The announcement and the money means we can crack on and make this a reality - it's a great day for Worcestershire and shows all the work on this has finally paid off."
GROWTH FUND WILL CREATE 3,000 JOBS IN THE COUNTY
AROUND 3,000 jobs are being created by Worcestershire's £53 million funding boost, it emerged yesterday.
In return for handing the money over the Government wants the county's Local Enterprise Partnership to oversee the specific jobs creation tally, as well as 1,000 new homes, by 2021.
As reaction from around the county flooded in yesterday more details emerged around some of the major projects which have secured funding.
It includes £4 million for another expansion of Malvern Hills Science Park, known as phase five.
The county council, which is a joint shareholder of the site, says the money will fund a new building "of significant size" for a range of small high-tech companies to move into.
The park, which originally opened back in 1997, is home to 23 technology-based firms and employs about 300 people but is full to capacity.
It has been so successful that an extension is about to take place now, phase four, with a 25,000 sq ft building being constructed.
West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin said: "I am particularly pleased to see money committed to the growth of Malvern Hills Science Park which will allow it to offer more space for start-ups and growing small business.
"This is fantastic news and is a great reward for the hard work put in by the Local Enterprise Partnership to secure some important funding to support our county’s long-term economic plan."
The LEP award also includes £800,000 towards improving vocational training, beefing up links between education providers and businesses, and encouraging engineering apprenticeships.
Superfast broadband in Worcestershire has also secured £2.4 million, meaning the existing £20 million project is being improved.
Under an existing county council and BT project, 90 per cent of Worcestershire was going to be able to access superfast speeds by 2017.
The extra money means the target is being increased to 95 per cent of homes and businesses.
Meanwhile Kidderminster Railway Station is getting £5 million for a revamp.
Worcestershire's LEP says it will continue to press its 10-year strategy, which included bids totalling £280 million, in the expectation of more money after 2019/20.
The £47 million of direct Government funding is from a nationwide pot worth £2 billion per year, which all 39 LEPs across the country were invited to bid for.
Worcestershire’s bids included more than 50 proposed projects, and over the next five years eight are now almost certain to go ahead but many others, like £63 million to dual Carrington Bridge and £4 million for Pershore College, remain uncertain.
The county did ask for £48 million alone in 2015/16, and ended up with £13 million for that particular year, with only Cumbria getting a smaller share.
Chairman Peter Pawsey said: "Of course we would always have liked more cash but the allocated fund was massively oversubscribed and together with other funding streams, including those from Europe and council resources, we can make some very significant progress on our priority schemes."
HOW WORCESTER WILL BENEFIT FROM THE CASH BOOST
WORCESTER has emerged as one of the big winners from yesterday's Government Growth Fund award - with £12 million earmarked towards major changes to the A4440 Southern Link Road.
The money will allow Norton roundabout to be enlarged, and dual-track the section leading towards Whittington island, easing congestion along one of the city's most notorious routes.
The work, which will start some time in 2016, is designed to follow on from the current £8 million enlargement of the Ketch island.
Another big victory for Worcester was £700,000 towards flooding alleviation, which will focus on some kind of solution for New Road.
During last winter's floods, rising water onto the busy route led to the main Worcester Bridge having to close.
The Growth Fund has allocated the £300,000 for 2015/16 and another £3.3 million will then arrive for further flooding protection across Worcestershire in 2016/17.
A total of £4 million will go towards getting Worcester Technology Park off the ground, funding proper access off Junction 6 of the M5, while the Hoo Brook Link Road in Kidderminster has secured £1.1 million.
Worcester MP Robin Walker said: "This growth deal is about more than just infrastructure, it is about skills and growth for the whole county."