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Infrastructure, energy and place-making forum this April



CGI of Curzon Street Station, courtesy of Grimshaw


Future Cities Forum will be holding its infrastructure, energy and place-making forum this April. The discussion will highlight the large investment re-directed recently from HS2 funding into transport projects to improve connections in the North and Midlands. It will also look at future projects to help councils and combined authorities to reach their net zero goals.


There will be questions during the discussion around whether councils in the north of England think that the funding will be enough to help connect businesses and communities, after decades of what they perceive as under-investment, how councils are using funding to become centres of excellence for net zero innovation and how high-quality place-making in towns and cities and around infrastructure is tackling climate change?


The Department for Transport has announced that millions of people in the North and the Midlands will benefit from better public transport, reduced congestion and upgraded local bus and train stations thanks to the new £4.7 billion Local Transport Fund


Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Transport Secretary Mark Harper have confirmed that the North will receive £2.5 billion and the Midlands will receive £2.2 billion from April 2025 to improve local transport connections that so many people rely on every day, particularly across smaller cities, towns, and rural areas.  


This investment - announced as part of Network North - will deliver an unprecedented long-term funding uplift across the North and Midlands over seven years. It’s the first transport budget of its kind that’s specifically targeted at smaller cities, towns and rural areas and claims to empower local people and local leaders to invest in the transport projects that matter most to their communities – helping create jobs, grow the economy, and level up the country. 


The UK government states that over the 7 years as a whole this funding will be on average at least 9 times more than these local authorities currently receive through the local integrated transport block which is the current mechanism for funding local transport improvements in their areas.


The Local Transport Fund will be made available from 2025 to give local authorities enough time to develop their funding plans and prepare to hit the ground running to ensure they are delivered as soon as possible.


The funding is directed to the North and Midlands because the majority of HS2 savings are specifically from those regions. The Local Transport Fund is also specifically for communities in the North and Midlands which are outside City Regions which receive City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements (CRSTS). 


Maria Machancoses, Chief Executive of Midlands Connect, said: 

This funding represents a significant investment in our region’s infrastructure. The Midlands contributes more than £90 billion to the UK economy, and to boost that even more, we need reliable transport networks and investment in new technology.  We welcome this announcement and the improvements it will bring for our communities and businesses across the Midlands, and we will continue to work with government and support our local authorities, to ensure these vital Network North transport upgrades are delivered.

Meanwhile Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) says it is investing a total of £6.1 billion to deliver a green transport revolution across the region, expanding Metro, bus, rail, cycling and walking networks to better connect people to job and leisure opportunities.


The funding has been secured since TfWM was formed as part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and will be invested over the 15 years to 2032, funding scores of projects and connecting communities across Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton.


Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said: “It’s no secret that our transport infrastructure was woefully underfunded for decades. But since the formation of the WMCA and with the region pulling in the same direction, we have started to redress that underinvestment and increased our funding more than tenfold to deliver a green transport revolution.


The WMCA also stated that since 2017, a £3.5 billion investment secured by TfWM has boosted the region’s transport network with scores of large and small projects. These include the four extensions to the existing Metro line and six new railway stations in Birmingham and the Black Country, a major Sprint rapid bus route stretching from Walsall to Solihull, a fleet of more than 300 zero-emission electric vehicles in Coventry and a cycle hire scheme across eight town and city centres.


On net zero goal achievements, the Tees Valley Combined Authority has been highlighting how a multi-million pound Innovate UK funding programme, has helped Tees Valley deliver on its ambition to be a centre for Net Zero innovation after supporting multiple local businesses.


The Tees Valley Net Zero Launchpad was set up in 2022 as one of two pilots to provide small and medium-sized enterprises with grants to develop energy and renewables projects.


Innovate UK – the UK’s innovation agency and part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) – has worked with the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority to support 23 projects with funding of between £60,000 and £800,000. The successful schemes in industries including recycling, hydrogen and offshore wind were celebrated at a showcase event at the Net Zero Industry Innovation Centre at Teesside University.


Hartlepool-based renewable hydrogen firm Catalsys is among the companies to benefit from support, developing a unique ammonia cracking technology with the help of a Launchpad grant. Darlington-based offshore wind firm Laytrix was backed in designing and building a prototype system to anchor floating offshore wind structures. Since the pilot, Innovate UK has rolled out the scheme to a further eight Launchpads across the UK.


Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “We are now firmly established as prime location for Net Zero industries such as offshore wind, hydrogen and carbon capture and storage.”


“Tees Valley was one of just two areas selected for the pilot and we have successfully delivered for businesses in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool by providing easier access to the funding they need to innovate and grow.”


The Launchpad funding was designed to build on innovation clusters which have significant growth potential and to deliver jobs, growth, and higher productivity, supporting Government’s Levelling Up agenda.

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