£20 million development plans unveiled to boost Forest of Dean economy

Details have been unveiled of an ambitious £20 million investment programme to bring jobs and new sports, education and community facilities to the Forest of Dean.

By Andrew Merrell  |  Published

An ambitious bid for £20 million of government Levelling Up Fund money has been unveiled to create jobs and sports, education, leisure and business facilities in the Forest of Dean.

Applying for the maximum funds available through the scheme, the bid is a joint effort by the Forest of Dean District Council, Hartpury University and Hartpury College and Cinderford Town Council and backed the district’s MP Mark Harper.

If successful it would see investment focused across three main sites, raising aspirations and creating ‘30 new jobs’ as well as ‘additional jobs and opportunities for local residents’.

Tim Gwilliam, leader of Forest of Dean District Council, said: ‘The three linked projects in this bid are incredibly exciting and would build connections across the Forest, provide new jobs and new education opportunities, encourage cohesive communities and help people stay active and healthy through great new sports and leisure facilities.

‘We want to raise aspirations, support ambition and provide new opportunities to help build a better future for people across the Forest, especially our young people.’

The Forest is classed as a category one area under the Levelling Up scheme – the highest level of identified need.

The bid asks for £9m to invest at the Five Acres site near Coleford, bringing new leisure and sports facilities and community space, as well as becoming a satellite facility for Hartpury University and Hartpury College.

It also includes plans for a new £10m University Innovation, Careers and Enterprise Learning Centre at Hartpury and an £880k building refurbishment programme in Cinderford town centre.

The centre would include a new Environmental Laboratory which would aim to spearhead new companies focused on environmental technology based in the Forest of Dean.

Russell Marchant, vice-chancellor, principal and chief executive officer at Hartpury University and Hartpury College, said: ‘We plan to create a world-class centre for innovation, careers and enterprise at Hartpury University and Hartpury College to help cultivate an educational and entrepreneurial pathway for young people, which will be particularly important post-Covid.’

Cllr Chris Brown of Cinderford Town Council said: ‘Our proposals will boost local employment and innovation whilst providing the platform for us to grow and showcase the enormous talent on our doorstep.’

Mr Harper said: ‘Getting this large package of investment would be a fantastic opportunity to increase skills, jobs and opportunities for everyone in the Forest of Dean and that’s why I’m giving this bid my full support.’

The bid proposal will be taken to the Forest of Dean District Council Cabinet before it is submitted on the 18 June deadline set by the government. A decision is expected on the funding in Autumn 2021.

By Andrew Merrell

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