The idea for a Town’s Fund began in 2019 year when I, and like-minded colleagues, lobbied the Government for a pot of money which could be used to invest in towns which may have been neglected in the past. We believed that such a fund would be integral to levelling-up our country.
The Government listened to our proposals, and the Prime Minister announced a £3.6 billion Town’s Fund.
101 towns across the country were chosen to take part in the scheme, with up to £25 million ringfenced for each. Southport was one of those towns. Each were asked to set up a Town’s Fund Board, the job of which was to draft proposals on how they wish to see their £25 million spent. If the proposals met the criteria, the money would follow.
A couple of months later, it was announced that Southport was to receive £173,029 of capacity funding. This money was provided to cover the cost of creating those detailed and thorough proposals. Using the capacity funding, Southport convened our Town’s Fund Board, of which I am a member. Southport was to begin its journey to the largest direct investment in our town in a generation.
We spent much of 2020 consulting with community groups, businesses, schools, residents, and stakeholders. We also got to work developing our funding proposals.
The Government began by releasing £1 million into Southport. In July, £900,000 was given to transform Southport Indoor Market into an attractive new food, drink, and events hub, and £100,000 was given in match funding to Southport BID for high-quality lights on the trees along Lord Street, and as well as other lighting around the town centre more generally.
We submitted our final Town Investment Plan on 30 October 2020.
The proposals included the creation of a new waterside events centre, an immersive light and sound show in the Marine Lake, infrastructure funding to support the transformation of Southport Pleasureland into an all-year attraction, and the conversion of empty town centre areas to provide incubator space for new businesses. The submission can be viewed here.
The Town Investment Plan constituted the largest bid for Government investment in the town's history. An original injection of this size has the potential to unlock an estimated further £350 million of private investment and thousands of jobs.
In March 2021, the Government announced that Southport had been successful and will receive £37.5 million.
Since the announcement, we have seen private investment begin to arrive in Southport - I formally re-opened Beales Department Store in August 2021, and we have seen new businesses take over empty retail units.
This Southport Town Deal bid will help our town rebuild its reputation as one of the premier destinations in the UK, and allow us to attract millions of new visitors and business delegates. I am proud to have played my role in bringing this about.