TAMESIDE Council says it will look to expand its plans for Ashton-under-Lyne after being told it will get another £20 million of Government funding.
The town is one of 55 in England and Wales to have been allocated the sum as part of the Long-Term Plan for Towns scheme announced by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Described as ‘targeted support to the places most in need through Levelling Up Partnerships, and initiatives supporting economic growth in wider city regions like investment zones,’ Downing Street has given Ashton a boost.
Based on metrics including skills, pay, productivity and health, as well as the Index of Multiple Deprivation to ensure funding goes directly to the towns which will benefit most, it was decided it will receive its share.
Tameside Council, which did not apply for the money, will be the lead delivery partner for plans and its leader, Cllr Ged Cooney, says the authority will push its scheme to rengenerate the town.
He told The Correspondent: “The additional £20 million funding is great news for Ashton and Tameside.
“There was no application made prior to the Prime Minister’s announcement and we are awaiting further detail from the Government around the funding and the criteria surrounding the monies.
“We will however look to use it to expand our ongoing plans for Ashton town centre to help ensure the investment in the town brings the best economic and social benefits and outcomes to support both residents and businesses in line with our inclusive growth strategy objectives.”
Auctioning empty high street shops, reforming licensing rules on stores and restaurants and supporting more housing in town centres are among the ways the plan will look to attract more private investment.
In this latest move, people, not London-based politicians, will be put in charge, with a town board – bringing together community leaders, employers, local councillors and the local MP, delivering a long-term plan.
Focused reasons for it include, ‘improving transport and connections to make travel easier for residents and increasing visitor numbers in centres to boost opportunities for small businesses and create jobs.
‘Tackling crime and anti-social behaviour to keep residents safe and encourage visitors through better security measures and hotspot policing
‘Enhancing town centres to make high streets more attractive and accessible, including repurposing empty shops for new housing, creating more green spaces, cleaning up streets or running market days.’
A Government spokesman said: “More than half the population live in towns, but half-empty high streets, run-down town centres and anti-social behaviour undermine towns in every part of the UK.
“This announcement marks a change in approach that will put an end to people feeling like their town is ignored by Westminster and empower communities to take back control of their future, taking long term decisions in the interests of local people.”
And the Prime Minister believes: “Towns are the place most of us call home and where most of us go to work. But politicians have always taken towns for granted and focused on cities.
“The result is the half-empty high streets, run-down shopping centres and anti-social behaviour that undermine many towns’ prosperity and hold back people’s opportunity – and without a new approach, these problems will only get worse.
“That changes. Our Long-Term Plan for Towns puts funding in the hands of local people themselves to invest in line with their priorities, over the long-term. That is how we level up.”
Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove, whose department has already given Ashton £20 million, commented: “We know that in our towns the values of hard work and solidarity, common sense and common purpose, endeavour and quiet patriotism have endured across generations.
“But for too long, too many of our great British towns have been overlooked and undervalued.
“This will empower communities in every part of the UK to take back control of their future, taking long term decisions in the interests of local people.
“It will mean more jobs, more opportunities and a brighter future for our towns and the people who live and work in them.”