Eden Project North and carbon-neutral Blackpool campus among projects sharing £2bn levelling up funding

Image: Eden Project Morecambe

The UK Government announced the list of 111 successful projects on Thursday (19 January).While many focus on improving the provision of local services like youth clubs, sports centres and village halls, there are also many projects that will contribute to the UK’s commitments to reduce emissions from transport and buildings and to increase public engagement with nature.

One of the most recognizable projects included on the list is the Eden Project Morecambe, which will be the UK’s second Eden Project visitor attraction. The project will receive a £50m share of the grant funding, which it has confirmed will enable it to finalise the acquisition of final additional funds from philanthropic sources and the private sector.

It has stated that the total price tag for delivering the project will be around £100m and argued that the project will “exceed Government investment within months of opening”.

The Eden Project is hoping to open the facility in 2026 and is touting around 300 direct jobs plus a further 1,000 indirect jobs in the region.

Also receiving funding for an environment-focused facility are Blackpool Council and Wyre Council, which have been confirmed for a £40m share for their plans to build a carbon-neutral ‘Multiversity’ in Blackpool’s Talbot Gateway Central Business District.

The facility will replace an ageing educational facility and will train young people in skills including automation and artificial intelligence. Blackpool and the Fylde College, Lancaster University, the two councils and local employers are collaborating on the curriculum to develop courses for the green and digital skills needed.

This project is set to cost around £65m. It has already been allocated funding from Blackpool Council plus Blackpool and the Flyde College.

Transport in focus

More than one-quarter of the funding announced today – £672m – is going towards projects to develop better transport links.

Some of these are high-profile projects with significant funding pledges, such as Cardiff Crossrail, which is being allocated £50m.

It bears noting that the Welsh Government has stated that the funding announced for projects in Wales today – totalling £208m – “does not come close to meeting the funding promised by UK ministers in 2019”. The Senedd has also accused Whitehall of overseeing a “delayed, chaotic process” which has “missed much-needed projects”.

Back to the topic of transport. Also on the list of successful projects in the rail space are extensive station improvements in Barton, Yorkshire; a new rail station in Okehampton, Devon; a doubling of trains running through Belmont, Sutton and two bridges over the East Midlands Railway track in Lincoln.

Multi-million-pound allocations have also been made to schemes across the UK improving bus, cycling and walking routes, including more than £34m for active and public transport links in Kings Lynn. These schemes could help to enable modal shift away from individual petrol and diesel car use.

There are, additionally, a handful of allocations relating to electric transport. In Dundee, £14m will go towards the redevelopment of a car park into a ‘sustainable transport hub’ including e-bike hire and 350 charging spaces for electric vehicles (EVs). Elsewhere, the North East Combined Authority is receiving more than £19.5m to deliver a fleet of 52 electric buses. There will also be 92 regular EV chargers and 26 rapid chargers to support the buses and other EVs.

The UK Government was accused of “sidelining” net-zero in its Levelling Up White Paper, as it had no measures to ensure that all projects and commitments contributed to its legally binding climate target. However, there were significant promises on decarbonising transport. Pandemic lockdowns aside, transport has been the UK’s highest-emitting sector since 2016. The UK’s climate advisors stated last year that policy interventions to decarbonise transport in line with its commitments are not sufficient overall, despite better-than-expected uptake of electric cars.

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