Three projects to help the region’s economy recover from the huge impact of the coronavirus crisis and February’s floods have been awarded £1.6million funding by the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership.
The LEP – the business-led organisation which drives economic growth across the region – has awarded Herefordshire Council £440,000, Shropshire Council £737,000 and Telford & Wrekin Council £404,000 for innovative schemes to help get the economy, tourism and region’s market towns back on their feet.
All three councils have worked with the business boards in their area to draw up the plans which they say could safeguard hundreds of jobs.
In Herefordshire, the money will help launch a co-ordinated drive to promote the county as a fantastic, safe destination for day trips and also staycations if the lockdown restrictions ease sufficiently.
In Shropshire, the money will be used to launch a package of grants for businesses in the retail, hospitality, leisure, care and business-enabling services, as well as targeted support for the county’s market towns.
In Telford, the award will help fund the launch of new apps to kickstart the local visitor economy and encourage residents to shop and eat locally.
Mandy Thorn MBE DL, chair of the Marches LEP, said the partnership was delighted that all three packages of support were so innovative in supporting the sectors most in need of help.
“The tourism and visitor economy has been particularly hard hit by the lockdown and floods and large numbers of businesses have suffered as a result through no fault of their own.
“This sector is so important across our whole region and it is vital we get it back on its feet as quickly as possible. We are also delighted to see the schemes trying to help businesses which have so far not qualified for support from the Government’s coronavirus measures.”
Herefordshire Business Board and Herefordshire Council are behind the plan to promote the county’s huge range of tourism attractions, retail and leisure opportunities to both local and national markets.
Their plan includes developing a new destination website supported by a smartphone app and local and national marketing and PR campaigns to attract day trippers and families and couples seeking staycations as soon as it is safe to do so.
Frank Myers MBE, chair of Herefordshire Business Board, said the plan would help support the tourism, hospitality, leisure and cultural economy as well as parts of the local retail and manufacturing sectors.
“We have examined the detailed evidence of how the county has been affected by both these events and believe this sector urgently requires action to support its soonest-possible recovery.
“This campaign will allow the county to safely encourage day visits and take advantage of the anticipated peak in the staycation domestic visitor market in the summer and autumn as and when lockdown restrictions are lifted.
“This support will also have a significant impact on all related supply chain businesses such as food and drink producers, wider retail, hotels and visitor attraction suppliers.
“The key challenge will be to deliver this initiative with urgency in order to rescue as much of the 2020 season as we can.”
Councillor Ellie Chowns, cabinet member for environment, economy and skills, said: “Covid -19 has had a huge impact on our local economy, as it has throughout the nation, and in Herefordshire this has compounded the damage inflicted by the flooding events earlier this year. It is vital that we all do everything in our power to support the recovery of our visitor economy as soon as possible, so it is fantastic news that the Local Enterprise Partnership are providing this funding. The boost will be particularly welcome for the tourism, hospitality, leisure and culture sectors, as well as elements of the retail sector. These seasonal businesses are currently losing trade as we enter their peak season.
“Herefordshire is a perfect destination for anybody looking for an outstanding natural environment and wildlife, beautiful open spaces, and wide ranging outdoor activities. Hereford and our market towns are also ideal for those in search of vibrant rural centres of culture, with opportunities ranging from the majesty of Hereford Cathedral, home of the world famous Mappa Mundi, and boutique shopping experiences, to the incredible variety of high quality, locally sourced food and drink that is available across the county. With excellent transport links, Herefordshire is perfect for day-trippers from outside and within the county.
“We are delighted that this funding boost will provide support during such a difficult time, and encourage everybody to find out more about what makes Herefordshire a world class visitor destination by heading to the visitherefordshire.co.uk website.”
The Shropshire package will see £450,000 set aside to fund grants of up to £10,000 for small businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure, care and business-enabling sectors which support businesses with services and products and have not been able to claim small business grants (SBG) or retail, hospitality and leisure grants.
A further £150,000 will fund £5,000 grants to micro-businesses which fall into the same category.
Key market towns will benefit from £117,000 of marketing and promotional support to boost footfall and reinvigorate their economies whilst a further £20,000 will be allocated to four further towns to help their recovery.
Paul Bennett, chair of Shropshire Business Board, said the plan would provide much-needed help to businesses still recovering from the winter floods and who fell through the cracks of the Government’s coronavirus support.
“We know from our own extensive Marches LEP survey that very many businesses did not qualify for any of the Government’s grant support and this is a way of ensuring they receive the help they so desperately need. This is then supplemented by projects to help restore customer confidence as we start to see the reopening of the local economy by ensuring consumers are safe and feel it.”
Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council’s cabinet member for assets, economic growth and regeneration, said: “We hope that this package will safeguard as many as 195 jobs and help 75 businesses in their recovery from these two devastating events. We will support a dozen market town projects and are targeting a 50 per cent increase in footfall and significant rise in retail and leisure spending.”
In Telford, £174,000 of the award will be targeted at the re-energising of local and regional consumer demand across the borough’s retail, hospitality and leisure sector with a particular focus on five key borough towns/centres, through a programme of digital innovation, marketing and innovative events.
It will include the creation of an app in the form of a loyalty card to encourage residents to ‘shop and eat out local’ and use the borough’s leisure and entertainment facilities. A variation of this app will be developed for the regional day visitor to help kickstart the local visitor economy. Both will be supported by a marketing campaign.
Paul Hinkins, chair of Telford Business Board, said: “This support for our borough towns and centres will play a key part in reviving the economy and helping those businesses which have suffered the most through the opening five months of the year.”
Councillor David Wright, Telford & Wrekin Council cabinet member for economy, housing, transport and infrastructure, said: “Combined, these grant funded packages will directly or indirectly support and help safeguard around 4,400 tourism-related jobs in Telford & Wrekin.
“The £174,000 package will support and help safeguard jobs in around 200 high street businesses across Telford’s borough town high streets as well as the businesses of Telford Town Centre and Southwater.”
The majority of the LEP funding has come from loan repayments from previous job-creating investment projects the partnership has supported.