CALLS have been made for the government to provide a multi-million pound package of funds that would pave the way towards prosperity for the region.
The News today throws its support behind the push for ministers to award Portsmouth and its surrounding areas the £300m it needs to inject huge growth into the local economy.
The Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) – made up of political and business leaders – has submitted a bid for the cash to pay for transport improvements which it believes will unlock major private investment.
The LEP faces stiff competition in landing a slice of the £10bn local growth fund made available by the government as 39 similar organisations seek to make improvements in other parts of the UK.
The government says the scheme is oversubscribed, meaning the Solent team’s bid could end up missing out.
And there are fears that the Solent bid may be overlooked because the south of England may not be seen as an area most in need of support.
But the LEP has stressed in its bid to ministers that without the money, south Hampshire’s economy would lag behind the rest of the south-east and the full potential for economic growth would be seriously hampered.
While the LEP may not get all of the £300m it has bid for, it wants £90m first and foremost to improve transport links to tackle one of the main stumbling blocks for would-be investment.
Among improvements under this first phase would be better access to the Gosport peninsula and an improved Junction 10 on the M27.
This would open up routes to future employment sites including the Solent Enterprise Zone in Lee-on-the-Solent – giving major companies and start-up firms the confidence to locate there.
Housing developers would be attracted to build properties for growing workforces. And improving road access, which would help cut tailbacks between Southampton and Portsmouth, would allow the LEP to identify other land that could be redeveloped as they would become more accessible.
Cllr Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council and a Solent LEP director, said: ‘It is absolutely critical that we secure this money.
‘This is a package of benefits that will boost the whole area. It wants us to deliver on jobs and homes for local people, and that’s what local councils want. These are long-term plans and they’re crucial for the next generation.’
Cllr Donna Jones, fellow LEP director and leader of Portsmouth City Council, added: ‘Schemes like these are expensive so without external public funding from the government, it would be difficult to get them off the ground. They will help the wider Solent region.’
City minister praises ‘ambitious’ bid for money by Solent LEP
MINISTER for Portsmouth Michael Fallon has thrown his weight behind the LEP’s application and believes it is an ambitious one.
He said: ‘I have been impressed with the level of ambition shown.
‘Infrastructure, jobs and skills are the priority areas, and I hope the growth deal gives the LEP the opportunity to make significant long-term investment.
‘We will be announcing the details of the growth deals very soon.’
Cllr Mark Hook, leader of Gosport Borough Council, said: ‘For generations, successive governments have looked on the areas of the south east as affluent areas and not resolved the problems we have had.
‘We need to look to the future to places such as the Solent Enterprise Zone.’
Cllr Sean Woodward said that while the government had focused on helping deprived northern cities in recent times, there were areas locally which were equally in need and needed help too.
Meanwhile the Solent LEP has warned in its Solent Strategic Economic Plan – its vision for the Hampshire economy until 2020 – of the dangers of improvements not being made.
It says: ‘The Solent is forecast to experience increasing levels of congestion, unless urgent action is taken.
‘Our detailed research suggest that this congestion will restrict future job creation, equivalent to around 1.7 per cent of future output.
‘Without improved accessibility to the Gosport peninsula, capacity issues and congestion will continue to have a negative impact upon investment which will not be attracted into the area.’
The News will highlight importance of securing cash
THIS week The News will run a series of articles explaining exactly why being granted this money could make a big difference to the region.
We will look at the schemes and also the benefits they would bring - not just for those living nearby but to everyone living along the south coast. And we will provide a platform to those who are supporting the bid.
We will then hand-deliver a portfolio of the articles to the government to ensure the ministers have no doubt how important it is for £300m to be granted to the Solent region.
To read The News’ view on this click here.