Agenda item

Bootle Strand Re-purposing Programme – Memorandum of Understanding with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities for Capital Levelling Up Funding

Report of the Executive Director - Place


This Cabinet considered the report of the Executive Director – Place which provided details of the arrangements for the Council to access the £20m grant funding allocated to the Council by the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities (DLUHC) for the delivery of part of Phase 1 of The Strand Re-purposing Programme (the Programme). The funding had been awarded based on the bid submitted by the Council to DLUHC in Round 2 of the Levelling Up Fund (LUF) process in summer 2022. Sefton was not one of the councils successful in that LUF process but when further DLUHC funding became available in 2023, through the Capital Levelling Up Fund (CLUF), the Council’s bid was chosen amongst a small number of others to be awarded the full amount that had been bid for from LUF.


The Cabinet on 5 January 2023 (Minute No. 108 refers) had approved the Strand Business Plan for the period 2022/23 to 2024/25, which included the recommendation that Phase 1 of the Programme should continue to be progressed. The report related to the approvals required for the Council to sign the DLUHC issued Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which is not legally enforceable but describes an understanding between the Council and DLUHC in relation to how the grant funding is to be used. Signing this MoU would secure the availability of the funding for the Council to access when works commence on Phase 1, scheduled for February 2024.


Prior to commencing works and starting to defray the grant funding, a further report would be submitted to the Cabinet with a full business case for delivering Phase 1 of the Programme for approval. In the event that Phase 1 did not proceed then the grant funding would not be drawn down and the MoU would be withdrawn.


Decision Made: That


(1)      the Executive Director - Place, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Skills, and the Cabinet Member for Regulatory, Compliance and Corporate Services be granted delegated authority to complete the DLUHC Memorandum of Understanding for the allocation of the Capital Levelling Up Fund grant, totalling £20,000,000 and


(2)      any draw-down and defrayment of the Capital Levelling Up Funds made available to the Council through that Memorandum of Understanding must be subject to approval of a subsequent Cabinet Report containing a detailed business case before commencing the construction works.


Reasons for the Decision:


The Council’s objectives for the acquisition of The Strand in 2017 were to ensure that it was supported to continue its role in the local community, as a key asset at the heart of Bootle critical to the town’s physical, economic and social regeneration. This remains the Council’s priority in relation to the centre. However, the continued changes to the nature of UK high streets, the uncertainties of the current economic climate and the impacts these are having on the retail sector continue to necessitate financial subsidy to keep the Strand operational and prevent the centre from realising its full potential to drive the physical, social and economic regeneration of Bootle.


To become financially sustainable and to act as the catalyst for regeneration in Bootle, The Strand needs significant investment to diversify its offer to one with less reliance on retail and which also includes leisure, food and beverage, and cultural activities, as well as health and education services.


This diversification and enhancement of The Bootle Strand offer is the objective of the Strand Re-purposing Programme, the delivery of Phase 1 of which will generate significant local value in its own right as well as unlocking the remaining development phases of the Programme and wider development opportunities across the town.


The Programme as a whole and Phase 1, in particular, will realise the following benefits:


·       Phase 1 will attract more local people and visitors to Bootle resulting in increased footfall and local spend in The Strand and surrounding businesses in the town. This will help move The Strand to a sustainable financial position; grow the local economy; and create new employment opportunities.


·       The creation of lots of new high quality public realm and shaping the place in a way that makes local people proud and enhances the brand and reputation of the town regionally and nationally, will help to encourage inward investment from both future employers and investors and developers.


·       Provision of a rich and exciting cultural and leisure offer, including food and beverage as well as entertainment and other events spaces will also attract more visitors and footfall as well as encourage people to stay in the town for longer during the day and beyond, creating a new night-time economy.


·       The provision of flexible and high-quality, digitally enabled space for new hi-tech creative and commercial activities, will create even more employment opportunities and reasons for businesses to locate and invest in Bootle.


·       The inclusion of education delivery at the heart of the Town Centre will help to drive up skills and educational attainment for local people, enabling them to take advantage of new employment opportunities.


·       The mix of a much more diverse and exciting offer, available during the day and the evening, along with high quality public places and facilities to work, play and shop, will all help to drive regeneration in the town.


The Programme requires public funding to deliver Phase 1 and thereby to start to realise these benefits and to act as a catalyst to unlock further investment. The provision of £20m CLUF funding enables most of the components of Phase 1 to be delivered quickly, which is the reason for recommending the grant offer is accepted via completion of the MoU, ensuring that that it is not withdrawn in the interim whilst the detailed business case for commencing construction works is completed for subsequent review and approval by Cabinet.


Alternative Options Considered and Rejected:

The alternative would be to not accept the grant funding. This has been rejected as it would prevent the Repurposing Programme from proceeding and therefore prevent the realisation of the Council’s regeneration objectives for Bootle.


Supporting documents: