French trip ‘could help raise millions in European cash’

Councillor Luke Stubbs

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CITY leaders travelled to France to see whether Portsmouth can get extra cash from the European Union.

The trip, which cost £959, was to see how the twin cities of Portsmouth and Caen can work together to get a share of €150m available for locations on the English Channel coast.

The cities will produce a list of schemes which they hope will win approval from the EU.

They include a programme to replace street lights with low-energy, LED lighting in both cities.

Portsmouth City Council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Simon Moon, the head of the council’s transport department, and Martin Putman, port manager of the city’s International Port, were among a group of eight who went on the overnight trip.

They were joined by opposition leader Cllr Simon Bosher, council chief executive David Williams, deputy chief executive for regeneration Kathy Wadsworth, strategy advisor Nicola Waterman and Partnership for Urban South Hampshire executive director Anne-Marie Mountifield.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘There are very few funds left for actually building things at the moment and what is there is much more easily accessed as part of a joint bid, rather than one location trying alone.

‘But there is a fund of €150m available, which we and Caen are hoping to get some of. It has to be spent in the next 18 months, so we’re going to work on that now.’

The fund is expected to be given to help research and information projects.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘We have a number of ideas. We spoke to Caen representatives about a scheme in which they recently turned a tip into a park, without using lots of chemicals. That’s something we would like to look at for Horsea Island and could then pass on that knowledge elsewhere in the EU.

‘We’re interested in helping to make sure people travelling by ferry stay longer in Portsmouth and Caen.

‘These are the early stages, so we haven’t got a full list, and we don’t know exactly how much we will request.

‘But we’re making steps now, and we hope to make some progress soon.’

The list will be sent to the EU’s offices at Caen, which will examine which EU funds the two cities should apply to.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson added: ‘They have said they’ll do that for us for free, so it’s a very good opportunity for us.’