NEWS of £23.3milllion government cash set to unlock development in Poole has been warmly welcomed as “tremendous” for the town.
Yesterday’s announcement of the county’s £66m Growth Deal, secured by the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), saw Port of Poole identified as top priority, with £23.3million allocated to improve its connectivity to the A31 and beyond.
A package of transport schemes lined up between now and 2020 include refurbishment of the old lifting bridge, improving access to the port on the town side of the Backwater Channel, improvements to Gravel Hill, and junction improvements at Darby’s Corner and Dunyeats Roundabout.
As well as safeguarding the future development of port, it is expected the improved access will help unlock the potential of the regeneration areas in Lower Hamworthy, where up to 2,000 new homes could be built, as well as housing development sites alongside Holes Bay, in Poole town centre and on the quay.
Yesterday, as transport minister Baroness Kramer visited the conurbation, she said the Deal marked a departure from a compartmentalised, top-down approach, seeing funding streams pooled, and local communities taking control.
“We have both allowed the local community to tell us its priorities and broken down those old barriers for example between transport and commerce,” she added.
“Instead of Whitehall saying this is what you need to do, it’s been the Local Enterprise Partnership, of both businesses and the local authorities, coming together and saying these are our priorities to get growth in this area.
“That’s what’s been really exciting today.”
Poole Harbour Commissioners’ chief executive Jim Stewart said the infrastructure improvements were vital to the port, where plans are well under way for a new 200m, nine-metre-deep quay capable of supporting bigger vessels such as cruise ships and bulk cargo vessels, as well as enabling Sunseeker to export directly from Poole.
He told the Echo: “Ports live or die by their connectivity, so this is great news for the port.
“It will really help us to give confidence to existing customers, and new customers, that the infrastructure is being taken seriously by the government.”
He added: “It’s not just great news for the port of Poole but also local businesses and residents.”
• 'Vital to the region'
POOLE MP Robert Syms welcomed the announcement, saying the most important priorities – the port and airport – being addressed were “vital to south east Dorset”.
“The port is still very much a vital part of the local economy. This investment in infrastructure is very good news for the town,” he added.
Poole Tourism boss and Dorset LEP board member Bruce Grant-Braham said it was “tremendous news for the area,” adding: “The port of Poole is incredibly important to tourism businesses, apart from other types of cargo, and the opportunity to create jobs there is excellent.”
Steve Warner, managing director UK, Brittany Ferries added: “Anything that improves the ease of access to Poole port is most welcomed by Brittany Ferries.
“For too long now, the difficulty in getting to and from the port for both passenger and freight vehicles has constrained our growth and we hope that this new funding will soon lead to a significant improvement.”
• Increased emphasis on skills
Also outlined in yesterday’s announcement were provisional allocations for projects starting in 2016/17 to improve facilities at Bournemouth and Poole College for engineering and manufacturing, and finance and business services.
College principal Lawrence Vincent said: “The Dorset LEP has identified the need to boost the development of key skills in the region, and we are delighted to have been awarded funding for both new engineering and business facilities.
“We are very excited by this news but are mindful that there are several ‘hoops’ that we still need to go through, including planning, before we can begin work.”