Blyth has been awarded another £20.7mn to level up the town by upgrading poor quality housing, tackling health inequalities, improving access to local jobs and cutting crime, the government announced today.
The funding would help increase skills training, keep young people off the streets and increase local pride, said the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
- £18mn to repurpose run-down and empty homes into high-quality affordable housing to rent and convert under-occupied offices into new apartments. Some of the funding will also go towards making social housing more energy-efficient;
- almost £1.5mn to fund new high-tech training equipment at Blyth’s Energy Central Campus, providing local young people with a route to high-quality jobs on their doorstep;
- a £200,000 initiative to reduce crime in Blyth including by extending CCTV in the town centre and establishing a new partnership between local businesses and the police. These interventions will target anti-social behaviour, substance misuse and theft in particular;
- government will strengthen local partnerships between Jobcentre Plus and NHS services in Blyth so more disabled people and those with health conditions are supported to start, stay and succeed in work.
Today’s announcement brings government funding for Blyth to more than £56mn since 2019. The town has already received £20.9mn from the Towns Fund and £11.1mn from the Future High Streets Fund. Work is currently underway on the Northumberland rail line linking Ashington to Newcastle via Blyth. The line, supported by a £34 grant from the Department for Transport, is scheduled to open at the end of this year.
Blyth suffered a blow last month when Britishvolt, which was planning a £3.8bn car battery plant near the town, providing 3,000 direct jobs and 5,000 in the supply chain, collapsed into administration. However, hopes have risen again after Australian company Recharge Industries stepped in.
The DLUHC said:
“Despite its significant economic potential, with thousands of new local jobs expected in its green energy industries in the coming years, Blyth is the most deprived town in Northumberland. It has now been earmarked for millions of pounds of investment to support its transition from a coal exporting town to a leading clean energy port.
“With this tailored package, the government aims to tackle the complex barriers holding Blyth back and unlock a major programme of regeneration for the 40,000 people living in the area.
“It follows similar bespoke packages in Grimsby and Blackpool, and forms part of DLUHC’s ‘deep dive’ programme, working in partnership with local leaders and businesses to target investment and address the unique challenges of deprived towns. As with North East Lincolnshire and Blackpool, Northumberland was one of the areas identified in the Levelling Up White Paper as the most left behind in the country.”
Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said:
“For too long, Blyth has been deprived of the opportunities to make the most of its startling potential. Deeply entrenched issues require an ambitious solution, which is why we have worked closely with local leaders on a package of measures that will improve the lives of the local community.
“Through revitalising dilapidated housing, upskilling the next generation and cracking down on crime, this town is finally getting the attention and investment it deserves to ensure everyone has the opportunity to thrive.”
Minister for Employment, Guy Opperman, said:
“A £1.5mn boost to Blyth’s job market to help young people secure, stay and succeed in higher quality, better paying jobs in the green energy industry is something close to my heart. I’m certain these measures will put Blyth on the map as an area of opportunity, growth and prosperity.”
Councillor Glen Sanderson, leader of Northumberland County Council, said:
“This is a significant investment and fantastic news for Blyth. It means we can deliver better homes, improve neighbourhoods and reduce crime in partnership with Northumbria Police, local businesses and the community.
“Investment at the Energy Central Campus and additional support to connect NHS services and Job Centre support will help residents to secure jobs in the town’s clean energy industry.
“Today’s announcement boosts the multi-million-pound investment already planned through the council’s Energising Blyth Programme and Northumberland Line meaning we can now go further to realise Blyth’s huge potential at the heart of the Northumberland and the North East economy.
Alan Ferguson, chair of Blyth Town Deal Board, said:
“This is a real boost for Blyth helping us to deliver improvements that are much needed. The support will accelerate our work together to grow, renew and connect the town, crucially ensuring that local people are included in the opportunities in the town. It will galvanise partnership work between the business community, public sector and community partners to deliver real change on issues that are important to the community. Blyth is already a fantastic town in so many ways and this investment will make it even better as a place to live, work and invest.”
Today’s announcement comes only weeks after the DLUHC agreed a devolution deal which will bring the seven councils in Northumberland, Tyne & Wear and County Durham £4.2bn over 30 years for investment in the economy and an elected mayor. Public consultation on the deal is taking place now and runs until 23 March.
Blyth Valley was a “red wall” parliamentary constituency which Labour lost to the Conservatives by only 712 votes in 2019. As such, it will be a key battleground seat at the next general election.