South West infrastructure spending is welcomed

The government commitment to spending on infrastructure and levelling up across the South West has been welcomed by Peninsula Transport at its Board meeting last Friday.

[However, Owl notes the “however” hovering above a long list of hoped for projects]

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com

A series of transport, regeneration, housing and flood prevention schemes across the South West feature in the National Infrastructure Strategy.

Clear commitments to the South West and Peninsula include:

  • A new railway station at Edginswell in Torquay, thanks to £7.8million funding confirmed in the Spending Review.
  • “Restoring rail links to Okehampton in Devon”, via a £500million fund to restore transport services lost in the Beeching cuts of the 1960s.
  • Development funding to progress seven other rail schemes in the South West, including opening the station in Cullompton.
  • £59million for Plymouth, including £12million to improve walking and cycling, via the Transforming Cities Fund.
  • Work and plans are progressing on several other schemes not mentioned by name, including the upgrade of the rail line at Dawlish.
  • Nine South West towns will receive up to £25million each via the Towns Fund to support major regeneration plans, including Torquay.
  • Seven South West projects have been awarded a total of £526million via the Housing Infrastructure Fund to unlock thousands of new homes, including £55.1million for South West Exeter.

“The projects in this strategy, including £27billion of public funding next year, will create wealth and thousands of jobs to repair some of the scars from the pandemic,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who drew attention to the dualling of the A303 in his foreword.

The strategy reaffirms that “the government will invest in the South West to help rebalance the UK economy”.

Chairman of the Peninsula Transport Shadow Sub National Transport Body, Cllr Geoff Brown, said: “We warmly welcome the government’s commitment through the National Infrastructure Strategy (NIS). Investment is critical to the South West economy whether it is on rail, roads, ports, airports, broadband upgrades or charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

“We are also greatly encouraged by the commitment of the government to Sub National Transport Bodies (STBs) and the £425,000 of funding agreed with Department for Transport for our strategic transport work this year. However as always we await the detail on some of the wider spending announcements just to see how much benefit they will provide for the Peninsula.”

Highlights which may support the Peninsula from the government’s spending review include:

  • A package of Covid-19 support to keep critical transport links available, including an agreement that the Treasury will absorb risks associated with rail passenger revenue.
  • £4billion Levelling Up Fund, including up to £600m in 2021/22, with the additional funding spread over the remaining years to 2023/24 with details on bidding due in the New Year.
  • £27.5billion for England’s Strategic Roads.
  • £1.7billion for potholes and local road upgrades including £310m for the major road network and large local major schemes programmes.
  • £420million bus funding (£120m for zero emission buses and £300m for recovery & transformation).
  • £257million cycling and walking funding.
  • Continuation of the Plug-in Car, Van, Taxi and Motorcycle Grants until 2022-23.
  • £20million in 2021-22 to enable a UK network of technology demonstrations in alternative marine fuels and green shipbuilding.
  • £21million for the decarbonisation of aviation.

Cllr Brown added: “We also are really pleased to see that the Department for Transport is now seeking views on The Future of Transport: Rural Strategy. It is so important for our rural communities that their transport needs are considered and we will be making strong representation on this. We also welcome the news on £60m funding for the North Devon Link Road.”

Reacting to the news, Torbay MP Kevin Foster said: “The £21.9million Torquay Town Deal and the £7.8million of New Stations Funding for Edginswell will help create the infrastructure and opportunities our bay needs to build back better from the impact of Covid-19 on our economy and community.

“This, combined with investment in our region’s infrastructure such as strengthening the sea wall at Dawlish and approving work to finally solve the problems on the A303 at Stonehenge, are signs of this government’s commitment to our region after decades when the South West did not get its fair share of infrastructure spending.”

This article has been produced for the Annual Business Guide Top 150, sponsored by PKF Francis Clark.

The guide profiles the biggest firms in Devon and Cornwall and takes a comprehensive look at the sectors that dominate the regional economy.

We examine how they have been affected this year and chart the COVID-19 bounceback.

See the full list, published on October 22, at BusinessLive and in print in the Western Morning News, or sign up to the WMN newsletter, here.

You can also view it here.

David Thomas, Conservative group leader on Torbay Council, said: “The Conservative group of councillors in Torbay are delighted to have received funding for the Torquay Town Deal (£21.9million) and Edginswell rail station (£7.8million).

“Although entirely different schemes, they clearly complement each other and are a real game-changer for the town.

“This government investment comes on the back of £120million of private money coming into the bay, where we are seeing five new hotels being built.

“This is a positive indication of levelling up working for Torbay when we have previously missed out.”

Central Devon MP Mel Stride said he was “absolutely thrilled” to see the restoration of the Okehampton to Exeter rail service included in the strategy.

He said: “The service will be a huge boost to the local economy in and around Okehampton and will also have a positive impact on Crediton as more people travelling between Okehampton and Exeter stop off to shop.

“It will provide a valuable service for local residents, especially those without a car, and will also be good for the environment by taking cars off the road.

“I will be making urgent enquiries to see what final steps need to be taken for services to begin in 2021.”

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