STOCKTON: Council will apply again to build “rock solid” case for Billingham
Taken: Wednesday 9th April 2014 Billingham town centre including the new library, Kingsway car park, JD Weatherspoon, Billingham Arms. The other location was Yarm with the new street lights, Town Hall and general views. Byline: Dave Charnley Photography Ltd Website Link: www.davecharnleyphotography.com All Rights Reserved 2014 Mobile: 07753559 Office: 01642 586269 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
REGENERATION chiefs will try to build a “rock solid case” for Billingham after a £20m bid to a government fund was rejected.
Stockton Council wants to buy up Billingham’s Western Precinct to overhaul its “tired” town centre to deal with high vacancy rates hitting the area.
But efforts suffered a setback when its £20m request to the Government’s Levelling Up Fund was turned down last month.
Council leader Cllr Bob Cook confirmed they would try again next year after Ingleby Barwick councillor Ted Strike asked about the “disgraceful refusal”.
The Labour leader said: “We must continue to hold the government to account on the true meaning of levelling up.
“I have written to the Secretary of State to express my absolute disappointment in the Stockton North decision.
“We have requested detailed feedback as to why a pretty strong case for Billingham was ignored.
“We can confirm the council will be applying for the next round of the Levelling Up fund – and work is already underway to ensure they’re ready to meet the government’s timescales, which we expect to be around the spring of next year.
“We will ensure we use all the tools and knowledge we have to ensure Billingham has a rock solid case for investment that the government cannot ignore.
“And we will not give up until the people of Stockton and Billingham are heard.”
The decision came after Billingham wasn’t included in the first round of successful bids to the government’s £3.6bn Towns Fund last year.
Bishop Auckland, Stockton South, Sunderland and two projects in Newcastle were successful in the first round of the £4.8bn “Levelling Up Fund”.
Stockton South’s bid will see Preston Park’s aviary regenerated, an exhibition space, improvements to the cafe, better parking, and renovated toilets.
Yarm will also get new toilets, cycle parking and new cycle routes, and money towards the town hall heritage centre.
After the Billingham bid wasn’t included, the Treasury there would be more rounds of the fund – with councils encouraged to speak to the Levelling Up Department to “refine their bids”.
Cllr Strike asked leaders whether “fully costed” plans had been drawn up for the Billingham overhaul at Wednesday night’s meeting.
He added: “What lessons will the council learn to ensure that costs don’t escalate beyond belief like The Globe did?”
Cllr Cook said a detailed plan would come to the council’s cabinet when they knew what they’d get from the Levelling Up Fund.
The leader added: “Officers are working on that but until we can apply to the Levelling Up fund, we won’t know how much money we have for the town centre until then.”
“We’d have to wait to re-submit a bid.”
Words: Alex Metcalfe, Local Democracy Reporter
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