The second RGF funding bid
Manston airport’s chief executive has called on the Government to recognise east Kent’s economic problems when allocating the next round of Regional Growth Fund cash. Charles Buchanan is working with Kent County Council to submit an improved bid after a previous application for £10 million was rejected by the team in charge of distributing the £1.4 billion pot.
The Manston bid was for a parkway railway station serving the airport, an extension of the high-speed rail network between Ramsgate and Ashford, and cash to fund a daily air service to an undisclosed “European hub” airport. But the application was dealt a further blow last week when Lord Michael Heseltine – chairman of the RGF inependent advisory panel – hinted at a roadshow in Margate that Kent bids were at a disadvantage because the county’s residents can travel short distances to London for work. Mr Buchanan said:
“The level that Thanet sits on the national indices of deprivation justifies the support we seek. It was made clear to Lord Heseltine at the roadshow that Kent is not entirely wealthy, particularly in the east of the county, and I would hope he has taken that away with him. When dealing with government policy it’s normal to have to deal with aggregates and averages; it just depends how local you are developing your policies. The Regional Growth Fund is supposed to support local initiatives, therefore we shouldn’t be talking about county averages.”
Not a single Kent application was approved following the first round of RGF bids – worth a total of £450m – with only one in the whole of the Kent, Essex and East Sussex Local Enterprise Partnership area being successful. But Mr Buchanan said the Manston bid was submitted before Pfizer announced it will close its site in nearby Sandwich next year, with the expected loss of more than 3,000 jobs. The second round, which aims to allocate the remaining £950m of the fund, opened to bids on April 12 and will close at noon on July 1. Mr Buchanan said:
“We need to take account of the Pfizer situation because the need for economic stimulation in the area is now much greater. We were disappointed not to have been awarded funding in the first round because we thought our bid had merits.”
kentnews 20th May 2011