Billions of pounds have been promised for projects aimed at ‘levelling up’ the country over the last four years. Various funds have been set up with money earmarked for schemes on the condition that it is spent swiftly and projects are completed by an agreed deadline.
However, a report recently revealed that many of these deadlines are not ‘unlikely to be met’. The National Audit Office found that only 64 projects described as ‘shovel ready’ – meaning that, with sufficient funding, construction could get off to a quick start – were completed by March 2023, with a further 1,143 schemes underway and 76 not having started at all.
Half of the main construction contracts for Levelling Up Fund projects which are due to be completed by March 2024 were still unsigned, with only 15 per cent of contracts for projects due by March 2025 completed. Every borough of Greater Manchester has been allocated some funding through either the Levelling Up, Towns or Future High Street – and in some cases, more than one.
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The M.E.N. has asked all 10 councils in the city-region for an update on each of the projects they have been promised levelling up funding for. Some have already been completed, with many more expected to be finished in the new year, while others have been hit by delays.
In some cases, an increase in construction costs has meant that plans have had to change or councils have had to find extra funding. Here’s the latest on all of the projects in Greater Manchester which have been promised levelling up funding from the government so far.
All of Bolton‘s levelling up projects have either been completed already or are due to be completed in 2024. The Bolton Institute of Medical Sciences, which has received £20m from the Levelling Up Fund, is expected to welcome its first students in September.
Meanwhile, four projects across the borough have been backed by the Towns Fund, including the revamp of Ashburner Street which is now complete. The refit of Central Library, the renovation of Bolton Market and the redevelopment of the Wellsprings Civic Centre have also received a share of the £22.9m which the government gave Bolton in 2021 and are all expected to be done by mid-2024.
Bolton has also benefited from £13.m of Future High Street funding. The grant awarded to Farnworth in 2020 has funded an extension of the town’s leisure centre which opened in June as well as the demolition of the former market to make way for a development.
The Farnworth Green scheme – the urban neighbourhood with 85 apartments and 12 family homes alongside new coffee shops, eateries, stores and green space which is being built by Capital & Centric – is currently expected to be completed by the end of 2024.
In November, the government announced that Bolton would get a further £20m for regeneration projects in the town centre. This funding will be spent on a high-end hotel, conference complex and re-imagined shopping centre, Bolton council later confirmed.
Two projects in Bury have each received £20m of Levelling Up funding. The redevelopment of Bury Market, which includes creating a new ‘flexi-hall’, is set to get under way in summer 2024 with the main construction contract expected to be signed in December.
Initial work on the Radcliffe Civic Hub – which includes a library, swimming pool and offices – has already begun. The main construction work for the new civic hub, as well as some improvements to the market chambers, is expected to be completed in December 2025.
However, both projects have been subject to ‘significant design challenges’ due to construction costs increasing since the funding bids were approved in autumn 2021. This extra cost is expected to total £7.5m, some of which the council will have to fund itself.
Manchester council has secured levelling up funding for two projects in the city centre. Construction started in May on the Campfield Market buildings which are being transformed into a tech hub after a six-month delay in signing legal agreements with a developer.
The project, which has been awarded most of the £20m promised from the Levelling Up Fund, is set to be completed by September 2023. The remaining £2.2m will see three railway arches on Whitworth Street West converted into a creative talent development centre.
Work on the centre, which will be run by neighbouring arts venue HOME, also started in May after a similar delay relating to legal agreements. But the scheme, which is set to be done by September 2024, will require extra cash from the council due to rising costs.
In November, a previously rejected bid for £20m from the Levelling Up Fund was awarded to Manchester council for the planned redevelopment of Wythenshawe Civic Centre. The ‘once-in-a-generation’ programme will be delivered over the next 10 to 15 years.
All of Oldham‘s levelling up schemes are under way now and are all due to be completed by the deadline set by the government, according to the council. Earlier this year, Oldham council secured £20m from the Levelling Up fund for several eco-friendly projects.
This includes a learning centre at Northern Roots, a new ‘Green Shoots’ business centre and the Oldham Greenway which will create links to the town centre for people travelling by bike or on foot. The local authority has also received £24.4m from the Towns Fund.
It was also awarded £10.75m from the Future High Streets fund to deliver three projects. These are the Egyptian Room Food Hall in the Old Town Hall, the Accessible Oldham scheme to make travel in the town centre safer, and a new business hub for digital start-ups.
Oldham council did not say when these projects are expected to be completed, but said it is ‘within the scope of the funding awards’.
In November 2019, Rochdale was announced as one of the 101 towns to benefit from the £3.6m Towns Fund, securing a share of £23.6m. Seven projects will be funded through this scheme which covers Balderstone, Castleton, Deeplish, Kingsway Business Park, Norden, Rochdale town centre and Smallbridge.
According to Rochdale council, four of these projects are progressing ‘more or less as per our original programme’. The other three have been delayed for ‘various reasons’ but are still forecast to be completed within the timescales of the government programme.
The local authority said that there is ‘a lot of planning and design work’ that goes on with big capital projects like these before work starts on site. However, Oldham council did not provide updates on when each of the projects are expected to be completed by.
Salford was selected for £13.7m of funding in the first round of the Levelling Up Fund. The money will be used to build a pedestrian and cycling link, dubbed a ‘boulevard in the sky’, between the Salford Innovation Park and the University of Salford’s Peel Park campus.
Some work has started to prepare the site around Frederick Road for construction with the main work expected to start in early 2024. The project is expected to be completed in 2025 following a delay in awarding the main construction contract for the project.
Salford council’s £20m bid to redevelop Eccles Shopping Centre was rejected by the government earlier this year, but later included on a list of levelling up schemes to receive funding from the Capital Regeneration Projects initiative announced in March. The council has now bought the shopping centre and surveys are now being carried out ahead with the aim of completing work by March 2025.
Stockport town centre has been awarded £14.5m from the Future High Streets fund which first launched in December 2018. This money will be spent on the Stockroom scheme which promises to transform empty retail units at Merseyway Shopping Centre.
The ’21st century library’ is set to open in autumn 2024 with work now under way. Stockport council has also received £13.9m through the Towns Fund for Cheadle which is set to deliver a new rail station, an eco-business park and new cycling and walking infrastructure for which work is now complete.
The council’s £20m bid for a new community hub in Marple was rejected at the start of this year, but weeks later the scheme was selected for capital levelling up monies. Stockport council did not provide any further updates on any of these levelling projects.
Tameside council secured £19.9m from the Levelling Up Fund for Ashton town centre two years ago. This money, which must be spent by March 2025, will be used for the refurbishment of the Ashton Town Hall façade and improvements to Market Square in particular.
Some of the work on these schemes has started and are due to be completed by the agreed deadline. Separately, Stalybridge was selected as one of 16 capital regeneration projects across the country this year, giving the town £19.9m to be spent by March 2026.
Since funding was awarded in March, work to the Civic Hall building started on site and is expected to be complete by July 2024 while work to the Ashley Cheetham Art Gallery is set to start in July 2024. In November, the government announced that Tameside council would receive more than £16m for ‘Destination Denton‘ – a project the town hall had previously bid for, but was rejected.
Trafford council has received £18.3m from the Levelling Up Fund for Partington Sports Village. Plans for a full refurb of the leisure centre, improvements to a BMX track and a renovation of changing rooms at Cross Lane Park are due to be done by March 2026.
Work on all of these schemes is expected to start in 2024/25 following delays in ‘securing grant agreements from government’. Trafford council has also received £17.6m from the Future High Street Fund which will be spent on transforming Stretford town centre.
Work on this project got under way in May following delays due to Covid. It is expected to be completed in November 2024.
Earlier this year, a £20m bid to restore Haigh Hall was approved with the cash coming from the Levelling Up Fund. Work on a project to repair and restore one of Wigan’s most significant landmarks is now under way with all of the main construction contracts signed.
In the summer, the government also confirmed that Wigan council would receive £6.6m of levelling up funding through the capital regeneration programme for the #OurFutureAshton scheme. This cash will go towards various improvements in Ashton-In-Makerfield.
Wigan council was also awarded £16.6m from the Future High Streets Fund in 2021 for the redevelopment of the Galleries shopping centre. Demolition has started on the site which is undergoing a £135m transformation which includes a six-screen cinema, music and E-sports venue, 10-lane bowling alley, a new public square, food and drinks venues, a new hotel, a new market hall and 464 flats.
In November, the government announced that Wigan council’s £11m bid for Leigh town centre has also been successful. The money will fund improvements to Leigh Civic Square, the regeneration of high street shop fronts and for the refurbishment of Leigh Market.