PLANS to pump £66m into public works projects in Dorset could be a huge boost for the Poole-Bournemouth conurbation.
That is the verdict from business leaders following the announcement of the Growth Deal cash earlier this week.
The package of projects prepared by the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and approved by the government include a major rebuild of the A338 Spur Road and improvements to junctions around Bournemouth Airport, as well as transport schemes to improve access to the Port of Poole.
The Growth Deal announcement is expected to create 2,500 jobs.
Roger Williams, president of Poole Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said: “This is great news for Dorset, especially the Poole/ Bournemouth conurbation, which is the largest non-industrial conurbation in Europe; it’s important that local businesses get themselves inline to be chosen to be part of these infrastructure works as it’s vital to keep the funds fully employed locally where possible.
“The end result is purely the tip of the iceberg. The value in this considerable investment is in cascading the benefits down throughout the entire business population to the thousands of workers employed locally.
“It’s a marvellous opportunity for Poole to demonstrate its commercial capabilities even further with improving port facilities, upgraded road communications and underpinning key skills development through investment in Bournemouth & Poole college.
“Opening up the airport access will be a tremendous benefit to Dorset as a whole – all we need now is fast access to Bristol.”
Ian Girling, chief executive of Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: "Clearly this is good news in terms of developments for the airport and port of Poole and these are economically important although there will be disappointment that not all proposed projects in Dorset will be funded.
"However it does need to be recognised that bidding for Local Growth Funding is a competitive process and the fund was three times oversubscribed. We can often lose out to other areas that are seen as having greater need and it's important we get behind the LEP and continue to bang the drum for Dorset."
The campaign group Uniting the Conurbation – which wants the creation of a conurbation-wide local authority – welcomed the announcement but said it was “odd” that the money was secured by a partnership “which is dominated by a small group of unelected business people”. It said there had been no mention of the need for “stronger governance” which were originally a requirement of the government’s City Deal bids.
It said the “fractured structure” of local government in the county was “not up to the task” of creating infrastructure, adding: “Does that make it right to hand the purse-strings of public funding to an unelected body such as Dorset LEP?”