'Once in a lifetime opportunity for Ashfield', as Sutton and Kirkby awarded more than £62m from Government funding pot
Kirkby and Sutton look set for bright futures after the towns secured more than £60m in funding from a Government pot which aims to breathe new life into struggling communities.
The towns have been awarded a staggering £62.6m from the Government Towns Fund – almost double any of the 25 other areas set to benefit around the country.
Together with funding secured from the Accelerator Fund and the recently announced Future High Streets Fund, more than £70m has now been secured by Ashfield District Council.
And together with co-funding, it will bring more than £100m of investment into Ashfield over the next five years.
Matthew Relf, cabinet member for place, planning and regeneration, said: “This is fantastic news for Sutton Kirkby, the whole of Ashfield and the wider region.
“I am very proud of the ambitious bid that we put together and this funding, together with the £6.27m secured from Future High Streets for Sutton town centre, provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to make a real and long-lasting change in the area."
In Autumn 2019, Sutton and Kirkby were selected to receive Towns Fund funding of up to £25 million each.
Since then, the authority and the Discover Ashfield Board have been working closely with stakeholders including business, education, health, transport, and local elected members to develop the Kirkby and Sutton Town Investment Plan.
Public consultation on the suggested projects a year ago received a huge number of responses that shaped which projects were moved forward.
The investment will deliver jobs and further education opportunities, long-term economic and productivity growth, new homes, improved transport infrastructure, reduced carbon and new cultural and visitor facilities.
The investment plan focuses on four areas:
Business and education:
The centrepiece of the plan is an Automated Distribution and Manufacturing Centre to create a national centre of excellence focused on promoting and providing access to the latest technologies and best practice in automated distribution; Two new education centres will provide opportunities for qualifications in construction and civil engineering. At Kirkby and Sutton libraries there will be new innovation centres which will support residents with digital skills, helping them access digital services, learn new skills and adapt to new ways of working.
Health and wellbeing:
A new Kirkby Health Hub and Sports Hubs at Kingsway Park and Sutton Lawn will give residents greater access to healthier lifestyles and help improve local health outcomes.
Boost visitor economy:
A new Planetarium and Science Discovery Centre at Sherwood Observatory will help inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers across the region; A new leisure facility at King’s Mill Reservoir will offer a range of new water sports attractions for visitors from across the region. A network of cycling and walking routes across the area will connect visitor attractions, homes and places of work.
Make Ashfield Greener:
The gateway area around Kirkby train station will be developed to provide better access to the station and interchange to buses and the new cycle/walking network to promote use of more sustainable forms of transport, as well as a programme to fit existing buildings with solar and other green energy sources.
Speaking about the news, council leader Jason Zadrozny, said: “I’d like to thank the public for getting behind the biggest consultation we have carried out since the council was created in 1974. This is transformative, this is brilliant and council staff have played a blinder. Our bid showed vision, it is innovative and I’m pleased that the Government agrees with us.
“The Ashfield Chad played a significant role in publicising both the bid and the consultation. They really helped capture the public’s imagination. I would like to thank our Chad for their help. They have been an integral part of life in Ashfield since 1952. That’s 69 years of service to local people – I’d argue that never before has it provided such an important service.”
Several projects are currently underway using the £1.5m from the Accelerated Towns Fund funding, including:
New Kirkby indoor market – due to open in late July; Off-road cycle path improvements between Sherwood Business Park and Kirkby; New play area at Hornbeam Park, Kirkby; Purchase of vacant properties on Low Street, Sutton; Creation of a Centre of Excellence for disabled people in Sport and Theatre, at Portland College.
Delighted Ashfield MP Lee Anderson, who lobbied in Parliament for the cash, said: “Usually bids are for up to £25 million each but we all agreed that we should go over the cap and I made a strong case with Government that our area is a special case as it has never had any sort of reasonable investment in the past.
“Thankfully Government listened to me, which has meant Ashfield has received the largest Towns Fund Deal of any area in the UK.”
The £6.27m funding from the Future High Streets is being used to help regenerate areas of Sutton town centre including:
Renovating Sutton Community Academy theatre to create a new cinema, live music and theatre space; Refurbishing and re-purposing empty shop units on Low Street; Developing the derelict land behind Lloyds Bank in Fox Street to provide better access between ASDA and Portland Square; A maker space and shared workspace that will offer access to tools and work spaces so that those lacking the space or funds at home will be able to make anything they like.
Martin Rigley, chairman of the Discover Ashfield Board, said: ‘The Towns Fund announcement is brilliant news for Ashfield, we have exciting plans that will benefit the area as a whole and help to make the district a fantastic place to live, work, study and visit.
“We already have a number of exciting projects underway with the funding received from the accelerated programme, and we are now excited to move forward and start developing other projects.”
Elsewhere in Nottinghamshire, Stapleford received £21.1m, while Long Eaton, just over the Derbyshire border, was given £24.8m.
Aside from Ashfield, the second biggest winner from the cash windfall was Bishop Auckland, in County Durham, with £33.2m.