The government’s levelling up agenda will result in billions of pounds being invested in projects across the United Kingdom.
Ministers will use four new funds to finance large-scale renovations in seaside towns such as Hastings and Hartlepool, while also creating thousands of new jobs.
The £4.8bn Levelling Up Fund will invest in infrastructure such as town centre redevelopments, upgrades to local transport and cultural establishments and heritage sites.
The government is providing £220m through the UK Community Renewal Fund, which aims to support deprived communities across the UK by investing in skills, local businesses and employment support.
A share of the £3.6bn Towns Fund will be distributed between 101 towns to support their local economies by providing for new shopping and leisure facilities.
And 72 high streets will share more than £830m from the Future High Streets Fund to help them reopen and recover from the pandemic.
And while levelling up primarily means new leisure centres, business parks and digital media hubs, the funding is also being used for ventures which are ostensibly not as practical.
There is usually nothing politicians hate more than seeing their noble acts of public service turned into a circus.
However, Great Yarmouth has secured £20.1m from the Towns Fund in order to boost its local economy, and £450,000 will go towards turning its historic Ice House into a national centre for circus arts.
The cavernous building was key to the Norfolk coastal town’s success when it was a fishing port in the 19th century, as it was capable of storing huge blocks of ice for months. Now arts charity SeaChange Arts plans to repurpose the building by installing state-of-the-art training and fabricating apparatus.
In documents submitted to Great Yarmouth council, SeaChange described the Grade II listed building as “uncelebrated” and said the “big, dark, brick box” is perfect for the circus. A bar is also being installed on the site.
The claymation comedy duo Wallace and Gromit will get their very own statue in Preston, home of their creator and Aardman animator Nick Park.
The bench statue will be funded by some of the government’s Towns Fund, after Preston council received £20.9m for improvement works to the city centre.
Designed by Park himself, along with Preston sculptor Peter Hodgkinson – who has also made statues of the city’s late footballer Sir Tom Finney and artist LS Lowry – it will be installed outside Preston Markets.
The budget for the Wallace and Gromit sculpture is £150,000. It is one of six “quick win” projects that attracted an initial £1m of accelerated funding from the Towns Fund, to support Preston’s objective of getting people visiting the city centre again after the pandemic.
Darlington borough council is preparing a £20,000 paint job that would turn the town hall signage, crest and even the local bins blue. The funding for the rebrand comes from £23m awarded from the Towns Fund.
The council has been Conservative since 2019, and the move has been labelled as “sheer political opportunism” by a Labour councillor.
But the council’s deputy leader, Jonathan Dulston, said the new logo is “not blue – it’s actually teal … it’s a colour that has been widely used by the council for a number of years now”.
Dulston maintained that the council’s choice of colour has “absolutely nothing” to do with Tory branding. “That would be inappropriate, and we know that,” he said.
Sefton council’s bid includes plans for the north’s first “flying theatre”. The attraction in Bootle will use a robotic hydraulic platform to create the feeling of flight, enabling visitors to take an exhilarating airborne tour showcasing the history and culture of Bootle and Britain as a whole.
The interactive history lessons do not stop there, as the council will spend some of the £14.5m it hopes to receive from the Levelling Up Fund on constructing a “VR time-travel tunnel”.
Visitors will go on a virtual reality journey through the “history of Bootle and Liverpool”, which features an immersive experience of the Blitz.