THE Government has announced Southend is to benefit from a £6million City Deal which will regenerate rundown areas and boost businesses and jobs.
Cities Minister Greg Clark will be at the Civic Centre, Victoria Avenue, today, to sign the City Deal, which the council applied for in October 2012, and which has only been awarded to 19 other cities and towns across the country.
The deal, which will free up £6million of public and private investment in the borough, has committed the council to buying empty properties on Victoria Avenue and working with developers to create new commercial and residential developments.
As part of the planned regeneration, £1.35million will be spent on transforming the former Central Library into a “business incubation space” to allow new companies to thrive with the right support.
There will also be £1.81million earmarked to offer intensive support for 1,350 small and mediumsized businesses.
The University of Essex will be involved with helping businesses in research and development, offering training, advice, online resources and grants.
This is expected to help at least 375 businesses improve performance and help create or safeguard 555 jobs in the borough. As part of the redevelopment of Victoria Avenue, funds are expected to be directed at the more deprived wards in the town centre.
Speaking ahead of his visit to Southend, Mr Clark said: “Southend has the potential to be a driving force for growth in the South East. It is a great place for businesses to locate, expand or start-up.
“To help achieve that potential, local business and civic leaders told us they wanted to give much better support to small and medium- sized businesses. I amdelighted to be able to say ‘yes’ to that proposal which is a big boost for the economy of Southend.”
Of the £6million, £2.5million will come from the Government, £3million from private investment and £670,000 from local government.
However, the deal also gives the council greater control over where this is spent, as spending on business support is, for most local authorities, largely dictated by Government.
The deal will allow the council to build on proposals from the Lottery-funded Coastal Communities Fund to support tourism using local knowledge to direct funds.
Southend Council’s deputy leader said the City Deal will be a huge boost to regeneration in the town.
John Lamb said: “It’s a great opportunity for regeneration that will enhance the town and create better homes, better businesses and better jobs.
“I’m pleased it has been settled now. It’s just a shame it’s taken so long as it’s been in the pipeline for more than 12 months, but it’s great news.”