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Experts may be needed to secure grants

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EXPERTS in applying for government grants may be needed if Stratford District Council is to compete for funding with other areas of the country.

Elizabeth House (54206925)
Elizabeth House (54206925)

The district has yet to secure a government grant that could pay for a large project to support the economy as it builds back from Covid.

The Liberal Democrat councillors at Elizabeth House are concerned the district is missing out on funding and has put forward a motion asking the ruling Conservatives to see how the council can become more effective in bidding for government money.

The motion, submitted by councillors David Curtis (Shottery) and Peter Hencher-Serafin (Studley), refers to the unsuccessful bid for Levelling Up money to help start the Gateway project – a scheme to redevelop a triangle of land between Windsor Street, Arden Street and Guild Street, including the creation of a World Shakespeare Centre.

However, Stratford, despite being hit hard financially by the Covid pandemic, was not one of the priority areas for the funding.

The motion also refers to a National Audit Office Report that states that “local authorities that have been successful in winning funding previously continue to win most of the funding, because they have people with the expertise and time to identify suitable grants and apply.”

The motion was due to be considered by cabinet on 10th January.

Meanwhile, the partnership which is supporting a separate bid for a Levelling Up grant met to talk about how it can secure money in future funding rounds.

The Stratford Town Centre Strategic Partnership Group, which includes representatives from councils, business groups and charities, is working with Stratford Town Council on its plans for changes to Bridge Street and High Street.

At a meeting on 16th December, Dave Ayton Hall, assistant director for communities at Warwickshire County Council, said the successful Levelling Up bids in the first round were those that were “shovel-ready”.

He said: “My personal view is one of the things we were struggling on was the readiness of the bid. You could see the bids that had been successful were those that really were shovel-ready in the literal sense of things happening almost immediately if the funding was able to be allocated.

“We are a bit further back on that.We need to go through the consultation with the town, we need to work up the plans in a bit more detail, and the cost will be refined as we move forward to that detailed design stage.

“So, I think by the time we get to the next round, we will be in a much stronger position. In the meantime we will meet with the Department for Transport in mid-January and receive our feedback, and we’ll have our consultation with the town in February.”

Paul Spooner, chair of Fred Winter Centre Partnership, added: “The second criteria is about deliverability, essentially the government asking ‘If we fund this can you get on and deliver it?’ What the government doesn't want to do is to press the button on a scheme that in five years’ time is still waiting for planning permission.”

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