£25m boost for Isle of Wight projects

By Ross Findon

Monday, July 7, 2014

 

£25m boost for Isle of Wight projects

Red Funnel is to move and improve its East Cowes terminal. Picture by Chris Thwaites.

UPDATED 12:21*

A £25 million boost has been given to major projects for the Isle of Wight, including a new composites training facility and moving and improving Red Funnel’s East Cowes ferry terminal.

Following a joint bid by the Isle of Wight Council, Southampton City Council and the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the cash has been awarded from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Local Growth Fund.

Red Funnel’s plans to change its East Cowes terminal, along with development work in Southampton, were revealed by the County Press in January and will receive around £14 million.

As previously reported, they will also expected to include a new floating bridge, as well as improve access to the waterfront from the town centre.

If planning permission is granted, work could start in 2017 and be completed in 2020. The majority of new jobs directly created however, are expected to be in Southampton.

The new Composite Centre of Excellence will be led by GKN and developed at the Island Technology Park, Whippingham, next to the GKN Research and Development facility.

It will be able to handle around 600 students and apprentices at a time. It will receive £10.9 million.

MP Andrew Turner said: "The Island has done well out of this round of funding announcements. The Solent LEP chairman Gary Jeffries told me last week that the quality of bids to the Solent Growth Fund from small businesses on the Island is also high, so there is likely to be even more good news over coming months.

"Along with recent confirmation that most of the Island has qualified for the Assisted Area Status map for the next seven years, it shows that this Government understands the unique challenges facing the Island’s economy and is prepared to help address them.

"I’m meeting Rt Hon Michael Fallon MP, Business Minister in Southampton later this morning, along with representatives from the Solent LEP, the Council and Red Funnel. I’m sure we will all be united in welcoming these announcements."

Isle of Wight Council leader Cllr Ian Stephens said: "The investment announced today, for improved connectivity to the Island, is critical for businesses and residents here and will unlock major growth opportunities for us.

"We welcome the opportunity this project will bring to secure our connection to the mainland and improve our economy through an increase in the number of visitors to the Island.

"I am also pleased at the benefits it will bring to East Cowes allowing us to bring new life to the town centre and create opportunities for investment and employment while improving the connectivity with West Cowes through the provision of a new floating bridge."

Isle of Wight College principal Debbie Lavin added: "This is a massive breakthrough for the Isle of Wight. The new centre will create a world-class workforce and help to assure sustainable long term economic success for local people and the island as a whole."

Red Funnel chief executive Kevin George said: "We were delighted to see Government recognise the unique challenges that need to be addressed in relation to connectivity to the Isle of Wight and welcome the backing they have provided to fund the public infrastructure needed to develop the waterfront access in Southampton and East Cowes." 

The news was also welcomed by the Isle of Wight Trades Union Council (TUC). 

Spokesman Steve Butler said: "Let's just hope that this re-balances the job losses suffered by the Isle of Wight at Vestas a few years ago and the brave efforts of workers to keep jobs on the Island."

Reporter: ross.findon@iwcp.co.uk

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