Ashfield Independents reveal why council didn’t seek full £20m for Hucknall levelling up bid

Hucknall Levelling Up (credit Ashfield District Council)
By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter

A reduced ‘Levelling Up’ fund bid of £11m to turn Hucknall into the “beating heart” of Ashfield was submitted after council bosses were advised not to go for the full £20m.

Ashfield District Council had previously suggested it would bid for the maximum amount possible to turbo-charge the town centre, before revealing last week it has only bid for £11m.

The proposals include plans to create a “future-proof workforce”, support shopfront improvements and expand Hucknall’s outdoor markets.

It also includes transport improvements in Hucknall, including enhanced signs and a new digital app, as well as improvements to the train and tram station.

And Hucknall’s heritage would also be celebrated with a new visitor experience at St Mary Magdalene Church, focusing on famous Hucknall residents.

The plans come after the Ashfield Independent-led council approved its recent Hucknall town centre masterplan, which focused on improving the “vibrancy” of the town and bringing more people in.

This 38-page document, the council said at the time, had played a role in guiding the Levelling Up Fund bid that was submitted to the Government this month.

However, concerns were raised on social media over the authority not submitting a bid for the full £20m, with the authority being described by some residents as “unambitious”.

Opposition councillors, including Councillor Lauren Mitchell (Lab), who represents Hucknall South, and Cllr Kevin Rostance (Con), who represents Hucknall West, also questioned the bid.

Cllr Mitchell, one of two Hucknall Labour councillors on the authority, questioned “where’s the rest of it,” while Cllr Rostance said: “The Ashfield Independents let the Hucknall people down again.”

But now a spokesperson for the administration has said the reduced bid was submitted after council officers received advice to submit a lower bid.

This advice, the administration believes, will give the authority “more chance of the bid getting accepted”.

In total, more than £250m in bids have been submitted from councils in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, with authorities bidding for a slice of the Government’s £4.8bn pot.

The Ashfield Independents spokesperson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We were advised and followed the procedures as set out by Government.

“We believe following this advice will give us more chance of the bid getting accepted by Ministers.

“This is why there’s the £9m gap, which was the administration’s first question. Officers explained we’ve got a far better chance, and we’d rather have 100 per cent of £11m than zero per cent of £20m.

“It’s a partnership with stakeholders and conversations are ongoing about potentially match-funding this £11m, so if it is successful, there is a chance of it being more than the £20m.

“If you look at round one of the Levelling Up Fund bids, 20 per cent of bids were not accepted. All rejected councils have put bids forward again and it is certainly going to be more competitive this time around.”

Other bids put forward to Government include Nottingham City Council’s plans for the Broadmarsh site, Mansfield District Council’s public sector hub at the old Beales site, and plans to transform various town centres.

These include Eastwood, Kimberley, Worksop and Arnold, with all Nottinghamshire councils except Rushcliffe Borough Council submitting bids to Whitehall.

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