£1 billion boost for Borders and Lothian regions

The funding could see infrastructure improved. Picture: Esme Allen

The funding could see infrastructure improved. Picture: Esme Allen

0
Have your say

New road and rail links to Edinburgh Airport and an extended Borders Railway are among major projects being drawn up after city leaders agreed plans for a £1 billion funding pot.

Councils in Edinburgh, the three Lothian regions, Fife and the Scottish Borders have revealed they will collaborate to win a “city deal” from the Scottish and UK governments.

The funding deal – which has already been secured by Glasgow – would transform housing and transport developments in and around the city.

It would be used to unlock billions of pounds of private sector funding and create tens of thousands of new jobs in the region.

Transport hubs, research parks and universities will be frontrunners in the race for new money. That could potentially include things like an extension for the city’s tram network out to Little France, although no proposals have been worked out.

Aberdeen and Inverness have launched similar programmes in a bid to boost wealth and economic growth, following in the footsteps of Glasgow and other cities in England.

At the heart of the proposition for Edinburgh lies the £1bn infrastructure fund, with housing, economic regeneration, energy and “digital connectivity” all among priority areas for investment.

Councillor Andrew Burns, city leader, said today: “I am delighted to be working with our five neighbouring local authorities to pursue a deal for the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region.

“In creating this fund, we want to build on our strengths whilst tackling persistent pockets of inequality and other constraints that threaten to hold the region back.”

He added: “Our next step will be to seek UK and Scottish Government agreement on the development of a detailed proposition – one that we believe can unlock billions of pounds of potential infrastructure investment, thereby ensuring the continued growth and reduction in inequality across one of Europe’s most successful city region economies.”

Targeted at boosting the Capital’s global reputation as a leader in technology and the sciences, the deal is likely to see key infrastructure such as the £294 million Borders Railway – set to open later this year and running close to the Edinburgh Bioquarter at Little France – extended or enhanced with new stations.

The area around Edinburgh Airport has also been earmarked for housing, roads and even new rail links.

City deal funds are usually broken into smaller payments which are released over several years once local authorities demonstrate they have delivered key infrastructure projects, achieved economic growth and jobs targets, and generated value for money.

It is thought governments at Holyrood and Westminster would each contribute up to £450 million to an Edinburgh deal, with the city council and counterparts in the Lothians, Scottish Borders and Fife forking out around £100m.

We told previously how the Capital was eyeing an agreement based on the Cambridge model and prioritising universities, science parks and other cornerstones of its knowledge economy. City leaders said £3.2bn of private sector investment could also be leveraged, providing a sustainable five per cent uplift to the local economy. And they said fresh spending would be supported by measures including business-led training academies in key growth sectors.

Assuming a positive response from ministers, detailed work on prioritising investment and ensuring the programme addresses inequality will continue with representatives from the UK and Scottish governments.

Greg Ward, the Capital’s director of economic development, told the News previously that the drive was about developing the “technology revolution” in Edinburgh and said that housing and transport were “big elements” to get right.

Scottish ministers have welcomed progress.

Infrastructure Secretary Keith Brown said: “As our capital city, Edinburgh and the surrounding region is central to driving economic growth.

“The Scottish Government remains absolutely committed to working with all our cities to unlock investment, whether that is individually or collectively, and whether through one of the Scottish Government’s devolved initiatives to stimulate growth and deliver infrastructure investment, or through a combination of measures. We fully support the Edinburgh city region partnership and the principle of local decision-making.”

Transport

EDINBURGH Airport and the new Borders Railway have emerged as prime candidates for fresh spending in a bid to boost the Capital’s profile as a major transport hub.

It is thought the area around the airport – currently Scotland’s busiest – could see additional housing built, with new roads and rail links also in the pipeline as part of moves to maximise future growth and job opportunities.

City leaders are understood to be mulling investment in expanded “light transport” links, which could include tram lines to Leith and major science bases such as the Bioquarter at Little France.

It is also believed the

£294 million Borders Railway could be set for a boost through the construction of new branches and stations.

Economic regeneration

TACKLING inequality is one of the key goals of the city deal outlined for the Capital and its partner regions.

The Evening News understands that a significant chunk of cash released through the agreement would be spent on regeneration of housing and other infrastructure in some of Edinburgh’s poorest communities. It is also thought major sums will be spent on new business parks with improved transport links in an effort to boost wealth and employment.

Council chiefs said successful delivery of projects was likely to draw matching investment from private firms which could create thousands of jobs.

Energy

ENSURING businesses, schools and homes have access to a plentiful supply of sustainable energy will be an essential element of any city deal.

The Capital has already unveiled plans for environmentally- friendly power projects including ground-mounted solar panel arrays, combined heat and power systems at major developments such as the £850 million St James Centre revamp, and micro-hydro power sites.

And it is thought efforts to shift 15 per cent of all city commutes from motor vehicles to bikes by 2020 – up from eight per cent currently – are also in line for a boost.

Housing

LEADERS at the six participating local authorities have indicated that they would look for a significant boost in the available housing stock.

It is understood zones suitable for new housing would be identified across the region in a bid to ensure homes are available for workers in growth sectors such as higher education and life sciences.

And following the Cambridge model, it is likely many of these would be situated next to major university campuses, technology parks and research centres. Areas close to or within easy travelling distance of the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and Bioquarter at Little France, the Heriot-Watt research park and the Roslin Biocentre are all thought to be among prime candidates.

Council bosses said that ensuring a supply of affordable and attractive homes would be a key element of any city deal.

Digital connectivity

MOVES to boost the availability of super-fast broadband in the Capital are already well-developed.

A partnership between Edinburgh-based telecoms firm Commsworld and network specialist CityFibre is aiming to build 31 miles of fibre in the city centre, bringing gigabit speeds to more than 7000 firms.

But the roll-out of that and other digital services, including free public wi-fi, is set to receive a significant boost as part of any city deal, with enhanced digital connectivity among the key priorities identified.

It is also likely council leaders will focus new investment on districts and social groups without good access to wi-fi and high-speed internet services.

The drive is likely to include the elderly and those in remote locations.