Over the last year, you can well be forgiven for not having kept up with the hundreds of grants, funds and initiatives that have been announced. Some have been created in response to Covid-19, others have been established to fulfil our manifesto commitments of levelling up and building back better. These initiatives range from helping communities plant more trees to improving high streets, to investing in new and old industries.
The most sizeable of which is the recently announced Levelling Up Fund. This £4.8bn scheme brings together the Departments of Transport, Housing and the Treasury to invest in local infrastructure. In doing so it removes the silos between the different departments and focuses on the most necessary high priority local projects.
This approach is one to be welcomed, especially given the noise Kevin Foster and I have made in calling for more for the South West. Thankfully our campaign and efforts have not passed unnoticed. Coupled with the Levelling Up Fund announcement was the list of top priority Local Authorities who would benefit from this fund. Thankfully Torbay Authority has been ranked as ‘priority one’.
Given that last year, Torquay received £22m from the Towns Fund and Paignton was awarded £13.36m from the Future High Street Funds, it is surely time for Brixham to be recognised and put forward to receive a much-needed injection of capital and investment.
Thankfully, there seems to be a consensus that Brixham fits the bill for the Levelling Up Fund eligibility criteria. As a result, conversations are well underway to discuss what should be put forward in our supporting submission. One might consider the following areas:
First, Brixham Harbour and Fish Market are in urgent need of expansion and development. This working port must be protected and supported, and by investing in the harbour we can maintain our record as the most valuable fishing port in England and help to expand the fishing sector.
Second, Brixham town centre has long been blighted by poor parking availability and an outdated high street. Exploring options on how to improve both are projects which can help attract further investment as well as improve traffic flows through the town. If done correctly we can ensure that more parking spaces are provided, along with improved bus links and a high street that is updated for the coming years.
Third, we must cultivate and support those high-tech industries that call Brixham home. The photonics sector is one such industry that can be developed further and the Levelling Up Fund can help secure new businesses parks and facilities, not just to support existing businesses but to help attract new and innovative companies to South Devon.
The £35m that has been awarded to South Devon over the last eight months is a sign that good teamwork can deliver results and that the South West is no longer being overlooked. As the submission for the Levelling Up Fund is created, the knock-on impact to the surrounding area will undoubtedly have a positive impact. After all, a rising tide lifts all boats.