Does the Mid Wales Growth Deal need more cash?

By Elgan Hearn   |   Local democracy reporter   |
Thursday 23rd June 2022 9:45 am
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Harbours Mid Wales Growth
Harbours in Aberystwyth and Aberaeron are set to be redeveloped as part of the deal (Cambrian News )

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DOES the £110 million Mid-Wales Growth Deal need an extra injection of cash to deal with inflation and rising costs a council leader has asked?

The first meeting of the Growing Mid Wales Board since the local election was held on Tuesday,21 June, where the issue of rising costs was raised.

A number of fresh faces are now on the board following former Ceredigion council leader, Ellen ap Gwynn’s retirement and Powys council leader Rosemarie Harris’ defeat

Ceredigion council leader Cllr Bryan Davies and Powys council leader Cllr James Gibson-Watt are now jointly at the helm.

At the meeting Growth Deal operations manager, Cathy Martin, gave the new board and update on where the work now stands after the final deal agreement which unlocks the cash was signed in January.

Work to recruit people for key staff roles as well as work on the digital and sites and premises strands of the deal had been progressing well.

Over the summer more detailed work is needed to whittle down the list of potential projects to invest in before they are presented to the board later this year for decision.

But problems have been flagged up.

Ms Martin said: “Construction costs are escalating.

“That is causing an issue in putting together cost forecasts for their projects.

“We have reports of quotes that are valid for 30 days, which is fine if you’re doing something straight away, but in our case it’s a long-drawn-out process and a project might not be getting on the ground for a year.

“They won’t be able to hold that firm to account for that quote.”

“If project costs do increase then potential ask for the Growth Deal will increase and will have an impact on other projects that we potentially could have funded.”

She added that there was a need to spread the cost burden, with match funding for projects also coming from other sources including the private sector.

Ceredigion council leader Cllr Bryan Davies said: “Costs are increasing just due to inflation without looking at construction and fuel costs.

“Do you think we’d get an increase in the grant from central government to cover this?”

Ms Martin said: “At the moment there’s not been any indication that the Growth Deal would be increased to compensate for that, we would have to manage it within the programme.

“It’s not something we have raised yet.”

Ms Martin added that a working group to look at escalating costs will be set up.

The Welsh and UK Government believe the growth deal has an “important part” to play in the recovery phase of the economy, after Covid-19.

Where the money is going:

• Innovation Park – Led by Aberystwyth University, estimated investment of £30m for 10,000 square metres office and research and development spaces space.

• National Spectrum Centre – Led by Aberystwyth University estimated invest-ment of £17m.

• Food Manufacturing Innovation Centre – Led by Food Centre Wales, which is part of Ceredigion County Council, this is a £4.4m project to deliver a state-of-the-art food manufacturing innovation centre at Horeb, Llandysul.

• Canolfan Tir Glas/University of Gastronomy – Trinity Saint David’s University in Lampeter hopes to establish a centre for rural enterprise that will promote the local food industry, cost estimated to be £8m.

Ceredigion harbours – cost of between £20m to £30m is an outline proposal for two major marina/harbour developments in Aberystwyth and Aberaeron.

• An estimated £24.2m for the Centre of Alternative Technology in Machynlleth to create an “immersive learning experience” to produce skills for workers needed in the renewable energy, “sustainable” construction, food, land use and tourism.

• An estimated £12.7m for an Elan Valley Lakes project – there Dwr Cymru would investing in facilities for leisure, sport, and nature activities, including visitor accommodation.

• An estimated £24.4m to restore the Montgomery Canal for tourism and leisure.

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