James Grundy MP: We must present a meaningful bid fo Levelling Up Fund
James Grundy is the Conservative MP for Leigh.
Earlier this year, the Government announced its Levelling Up Fund, enabling local authorities such as Wigan Council to bid for up to £20million of funding to level up each constituency that lay within its boundary.
Shortly after this news, the Government also informed me that Wigan Borough was on the highest priority list, meaning that bids for the Leigh constituency would be prioritised for this large funding opportunity.
This, of course, was fantastic news, and provided Wigan Council with a fantastic opportunity to undertake large scale regeneration projects across our constituency.
After asking for an update on the bid’s progress, I met with the council with the view of discussing their proposals.
Their plan however, had at its centrepiece a multi- storey car park, to be built on the existing Spinning Gate car park, which would enable them to sell off other car parks in the town for housebuilding, as well as the improvement of some side streets be installing trees and widening pavements.
During this meeting, it certainly came as a shock that Wigan Council could not answer key questions such as “how much will parking cost local residents”, “how much funding will you be applying for” and “how many car parking spaces will the car park provide?”.
They had also failed to consider how this car park would compete with the adjacent to car park at Tesco, which already offers free parking, the impact of increased housing in our town centre that already has existing traffic problems, and had no plans to improve Bradshawgate or Leigh Market.
As a result, I asked that the council postpone applying for this round of funding, and to work with me and other local businesses, community groups and organisations in our local area to develop a new bid, that would excite and inspire my constituents and, most importantly, deliver the changes that they wanted to see.
Unfortunately, the council progressed with its development of a multi-storey car park and whilst some changes were made to the bid based on my feedback, my concerns still remained in place, as well as concerns from the owners of the Spinning Gate, the Atmore Group, who I have met with multiple times over the last year to discuss regenerating our town centre.
Disappointingly, in my most recent meeting with the council, whilst some changes were made to the bid, the multi-storey car park remained at its heart.
Wigan Council also outlined that residents would be charged for using the car park and prices for longer stays would be increasing.
Despite our requests to offer free parking to boost footfall and in turn investment in our town, these requests were rejected by the council.
Due to the council being unable to put together a coherent bid in time for the deadline, I was informed that they will not be submitting a bid for round one of the Levelling Up Fund for the Leigh constituency.
This admission came as no surprise, as for several weeks I had been telling the council that trying to draw up plans for a bid for £20 million in just a few weeks would lead to a substandard bid, almost guaranteed to fail.
The only good thing to come out of this delay, is that we can now spend the next 12 months putting together a meaningful and detailed bid for round two of the Levelling Up Fund next year.
As local MP, I, the Atmore group, and others, remain committed to working cross-party with Wigan Council to develop plans based on meaningful consultation with businesses and residents alike, and centred around the regeneration of Bradshawgate, Leigh Market, the Spinning Gate Shopping Centre, the wider town centre and other areas of the Leigh constituency.
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