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Gloucestershire Business News

£20m government funding for Forest confirmed

The Forest of Dean has got the go-ahead from the government for an ambitious £20m regeneration project.

It is just one of the Levelling Up projects nationally confirmed by the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, during today's (October 27) Budget.

The bid, pulled together by Forest of Dean District Council, Hartpury University, Hartpury College and Cinderford Town Council, brings together three linked projects.

The overall aim is to improve leisure and community facilities, introduce new further and higher education opportunities, repurpose vacant buildings and grow the local economy across the Forest. Retaining young, local talent in the area is a key driver for the bid partners.

Cllr Tim Gwilliam, leader of Forest of Dean District Council, said: "When we put the bid in, I said this was potentially a game change for the Forest of Dean. I didn't use those words lightly. It really is massive.

"We will get regeneration for Cinderford, bringing in business, art and culture. Hartpury University is already making strides, but this investment will put the university and the college on another level and help to attract students from all over the world. But it will also make such a difference to the Forest of Dean, bringing university education into the centre at Five Acres is so important for our young people.

"I'm thrilled for everyone who has worked so hard for this bid, at Hartpury, Cinderford Town Council and our own team at Forest of Dean District Council.

"This money means we don't have to wait. It enables us to get things done. If it's up to me, as soon as we get the funding, we start work! We don't want to delay for the people of the Forest."

Mark Harper, MP for the Forest of Dean, tweeted this afternoon: "Chancellor Rishi Sunak has delivered for the Forest after I made our case to him personally.

"An exciting project involving Hartpury, Forest of Dean District Council and Cinderford Town Council partnership. Now let's get to work!"

The bid package consists of a £9m investment at the Five Acres site, bringing new leisure and sports facilities and flexible community space to the area, including a satellite facility for Hartpury University and Hartpury College. There is also a new £10m University Innovation, Careers and Enterprise Learning Centre at Hartpury University and Hartpury College and an £880k building refurbishment programme in Cinderford town centre.

The proposal for the Five Acres site is to create a new leisure and community hub which would bring the derelict site back into use, providing modern leisure, community and business facilities for the area and an artificial all-weather sports pitch. It would also include a satellite site for Hartpury University and Hartpury College, bringing new education opportunities for young people to the Forest.

The flagship University Innovation, Careers and Enterprise Learning Centre, which will be built on the current Hartpury University and Hartpury College site, will support the growth in student numbers, providing new opportunities to over 16s in the Forest. The centre will focus on encouraging and supporting local young people to stay in education or start their own business in the area.

In Cinderford, the proposal includes the regeneration of a number of key buildings across the town centre, bringing them back into use to provide modern co-working spaces for start-up businesses and a new community facility, providing great spaces for residents to live, work and socialise.

Across all three sites, there is a focus on reaching net zero carbon through the installation of electric vehicle and bike charging points, the use of solar power and by encouraging sustainable travel.

It is anticipated that the combined bid will bring over 30 new jobs to the area and provide the facilities needed for new businesses to grow, bringing additional jobs and opportunities for local people.

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