This report seeks the Committee’s endorsement to the core elements of the Council’s submission to the Levelling Up Fund Round Two.
The Chair invited the Business Development Manager to present her report. She outlined that the report was asking the Committee to endorse the submission of a bid for funding to the Levelling Up Fund Round Two for funding to support the Arun Cycle Way project in Arundel and Littlehampton.
The Committee was reminded that a total of up to £20 m was available for non-transport projects and this project was not seen to be a transport project. Members were also made aware of the fact that the deadline for submission of this round of completed bids was 6 July 2022 and that submitters of bids needed to be able to demonstrate spending from the fund in the 2022-23 financial year. This was an important development project to put forward as it sought to deliver both a leisure cycleway down to the western bank of the River Arun and would provide delivery of a commuter route between Arundel and Ford station, along Ford Road and beyond the A259, providing a wide range of economic and health and wellbeing benefits.
It had been vital to have a developed bid to put forward and Members were reminded that the Economy Committee had agreed last year to the further development of this project, with this work having now been completed. Also, as the Council had already been successful in achieving funding from Round One of the Levelling Up Fund for projects in Littlehampton and Bognor Regis, this project was sighted as suitable for submission. Members were also reminded that the number of applications to the Levelling Up Fund were allocated by Parliamentary constituency. As Arun had three Parliamentary constituencies it could submit a further application to Round Two covering the constituency area of this project.
Section two of the report detailed the proposals in place and that it was hoped that the parts of the commuter route not covered by this project could be delivered through a mixture of Community Infrastructure Levy funding, capital from WSCC and a bid to National Highways using what was referred to as Designated Funds. The report covered the predicted costs of the project and that consultation with landowners had taken place as this needed to be provided as evidence when the bid was submitted.
In discussing the project, the project was welcomed by the Committee with Members acknowledging the benefit for the district and ward areas.
In looking at the recommendations, an amendment was requested by Councillor Roberts to Recommendation (2) with the additional wording shown in bold as set out below:
“Authorises the Director of Place/ in consultation with the Chair of the Policy & Finance Committee to finalise the bid documentation and make changes as considered appropriate without changing the core message or details”.
This amendment was seconded by Councillor Dixon.
A further amendment was then requested to add in the words Chief Executive after the Director Place.
On these amendments being put to the vote they were declared CARRIED.
Further discussion on the project saw some Members referring back to the process that had been put into place when compiling the LUF Round one bids which they felt had been far more consultative. The benefits of a Working Party of Members established to consider the Round One projects were highlighted. For Round One, the establishment of a Working Party had allowed Members to submit suggestions for the bid and to then refine the detail of the bids selected. Despite the tight deadline in place, there was feeling that it would have been beneficial to Members if a similar approach could have been taken with this submission. Questions were also asked as to whether the council had the required officer capacity to develop this project, if approved and in the timescales dictated by Government. The Chief Executive responded stating that the council had committed to this project formally already and as an agreed priority for the council, would have always approached any funding stream to support it as it had been confirmed as a priority. On officer capacity, this was partly why he and the Business Development Manager had developed the project further. It was a live existing project that would continue irrespective of funding sources but would require a bid for additional resources to ensure that the council was adequately resourced to progress it. Part of the process being worked on currently was looking at zero based budgeting as an organisation to identify headroom within the overall budget to allow the council to bend its resources to meet the vision document that the council had adopted, with the economy being one of the four major strands pushed forward. The council was in a point of transition and would be bringing forward subsequent requests for resources to deliver its priorities and vision.
Returning to the bid, concern was expressed at the statement made earlier that this project was not a transport plan. It was the view of one Member that cycling routes were part of transport strategies. Concerns were also expressed over the costs quoted in the report which were seen as high for a cycle route of this length. Other questions focused on what would be the effect of running this bid alongside the existing bid from Arundel Town Council, supported by this Council and WSCC, for the central commuter route along Ford Road and had these consultations taken place. Other concerns expressed were over connectivity and concerns that the project could end up with a not very well connected junction. The section between Ford Station and the River at Littlehampton was a vital component which should be included. Further concerns over connectivity at the southern end with the existing south coast cycle path and the connections around the Tesco roundabout and bridge over the River Arun were raised as these still needed to be resolved.
Responses were provided to these concerns. Officers had studied the LUF guidance which had confirmed this project as not being a transport bid. Referring to the link to the Arundel project, Arundel Town Council was not bidding to LUF and so there was no direct conflict, any inclusion of this part of the route meant that it would have to be submitted through Arun or WSCC. The southward route from Ford Station was being funded by developers via the CIL process and Officers outlined that they were fully aware of the concerns towards the south end and would seek to address these but not before the bid was submitted. The Chair also confirmed that for the commuter route, WSCC was in discussion with National Highways over funding.
Other Councillors expressed their enthusiasm for the project sighting its huge benefits for the district as well as enhancing the connectivity of the towns which would also promote visitor economy. Questions were then asked about the ten per cent match funding and how would this be found. It was confirmed that this would be funded from CIL funding.
Following some discussion about possible Round Three bids and ideas, the recommendation was then proposed by Councillor Cooper and seconded by Councillor Roberts.
RESOLVED – That
(1) It endorses the submission of a bid for funding to the Levelling-Up Fund for funding to support the Arun Cycle Way project in Arundel and Littlehampton; and
(2) It authorises the Director of Place or Chief Executive in consultation with the Chair of the Policy & Finance Committee to finalise the bid documentation and make changes as considered appropriate without changing the core messages or details.