The South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) has agreed a total of £6m of Local Growth Fund monies to develop Phase 2 of the successful Southend Forum project.
The Forum is the UK’s first public-academic library and includes teaching space for both South Essex College and the University of Essex which has enabled their expansion. It is also home to Focal Point Gallery.
The Forum project, phase 2, will deliver additional teaching space, cultural space and opportunities for businesses, students and academics to grow together, focussed on the key sector of digital, cultural and creative industries.
Geoff Miles, Chairman of the South East Local Enterprise Partnership’s Accountability Board, said:
“The second part of the Southend Central Area Action Plan was originally due to include the compulsory purchase and demolition of a derelict building on Victoria Avenue to free the land up for residential development, but that is now being achieved through private sector investment.
As a result, Southend Borough Council proposed reallocating the £6m Local Growth Fund financing earmarked for that scheme to Phase 2 of the Southend Forum Project, and this has been agreed by SELEP.”
This will see the development of 3,535m2 of teaching and learning space, a commercial restaurant, community gallery and exhibition space and commercial creative and digital enterprise space.
Geoff Miles added:
“Phase 2 of this project will create an inspiring and welcoming new building which will improve Southend town centre.
It will also boost the number and quality of students recruited to the College, help retain them in the borough after graduation, and create a new digital and creative workspace to attract a new business population to the heart of Southend.”
It follows the first phase of the Forum project, which provides modern teaching, learning, research and study facilities for South Essex College and University, which enables closer co-working and co-operation between the two, and gives residents and students access to a range of books, archives and resources. There is also a café/restaurant and a gallery, which hosts a programme of events including performances, film screenings and talks.
The Forum provides a focal point for cultural and community-based activities and has attracted more than 1.75m visitors during its first three years.
Growth Deals are a £12 billion national long-term programme to revitalise local economies.
The Local Growth Fund is the Government’s funding pot of at least £2bn a year from 2015/16 to 2020/21. Most of the funding is allocated through a competitive process, and there are have been three rounds of Local Growth Funds so far. Projects funded will be delivered by 2021.
In total the SELEP Growth Deal with Government has brought almost £590.8m of investment to around 100 projects in East Sussex, Essex, Kent, Medway, Southend and Thurrock.
Over the lifetime of the deal (2015-2021) SELEP aims to deliver 78,000 jobs and 29,000 homes. It is set to attract a further £960 million investment into the South East over the next five years.