Wirral Waters Investment Fund - APPLICATION FOR FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE
Decision Maker: Cabinet
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: Yes
Councillor Angela Davies introduced a report which informed that Peel Investments (Intermediate) Limited had requested a grant of £1,500,000 from the Wirral Waters Investment Fund to support the delivery of Marine Energy and Automotive (MEA) Park Phase 2, which comprised twelve new industrial units for light industrial uses as part of the wider MEA Park Masterplan, which was targeted at providing a sector-focused environment to support business growth and capacity.
The Wirral Waters Investment Fund had been established for the purpose of promoting investment and economic growth within the Wirral Waters priority regeneration area seeking to maximise the value of the designation of the area as part of the wider Merseyside Waters Enterprise Zone. Wirral Waters was one of the largest regeneration projects in the UK. With its unique water assets it was in a prime position to drive growth across various sectors including energy, maritime, automotive and the SME sector. West Float was located at the western end of the Wirral Waters area. This industrial zone was the focus for MEA Park.
Members noted that MEA stood for Marine, Energy and Automotive and that MEA Park would provide a focus in the Liverpool City Region for the development of key energy infrastructure within marine, civil nuclear and renewable growth sectors so the area in and around Birkenhead Docks which had suffered, like other dock areas around the country, from a number of interrelated market failures caused by decades of industrial decline and lack of investment. Often new development in dock areas was not viable without some sort of public sector support.
MEA Park Phase 2, itself, comprised twelve high quality, medium sized industrial units for light industrial use. Councillor Angie Davies reported that the twelve units would provide approximately 69,000 square feet and demand had already been identified amongst local and national occupiers. She also informed that the investment in MEA Park Phase 2 would support the development of the skills factory and the modular development unit, as well as other external infrastructure works. This was redevelopment of a site which was currently designated as a brown field site
The Cabinet was aware that the Wirral Plan: A 2020 Vision had set out the vision for the borough and had economic growth at its heart to ensure residents were able to access good, high paying jobs in a stable and thriving economy. The Plan had identified 20 key pledges that the Council, and its partner agencies, must deliver and it was noted that the application for financial assistance contained in the report, directly supported the following pledges:
· Increase inward investment
· Workforce skills match business needs
· Greater job opportunities
· Thriving small businesses
The cabinet was informed that the £5.98m project costs demonstrate a total viability gap of £1.5m.
The Cabinet was also informed that the Council had considered a number of other options which were discounted as follows:
a) Provide a loan rather than grant:An independent appraisal of the application had concluded that the project was not currently viable and, therefore, required grant funding through WWIF to facilitate development.
b) Adopt a ‘do nothing’ approach: The development would be jeopardised, as the project was reliant on securing funding from other public/private sources to meet the identified viability gap. This WWIF grant would enable the delivery of a high-quality industrial development which would support the Wirral Plan and Growth Plan and Liverpool City Region sector priorities. Without grant funding support the project may not proceed at all.
The four appendices to the report were not for publication by virtue of paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 as they contained exempt information relating to the business affairs of a third party. They were attached at Agenda Item No. 13 and would be considered in the absence of the press and public. (Minute No. 77 refers.)
This was a Key Decision and affected all Wards within the Borough.
Councillor Angie Davies reported that the project was expected to create 67 new jobs during the construction phase and 150 full time equivalent jobs following completion. Of course there would also be the additional business rates the Council would receive over the years as well.
Councillor Phil Davies declared a personal interest in this item of business by virtue of him being a non-executive director of Chrysalis Fund which had been involved in the project.
Councillor Anita Leech pointed out that the £1,500,000 from the Wirral Waters Investment Fund would provide double the return and any over runs would be covered by Peel so it was good news all round.
(1) a grant to Peel Investments (Intermediate) Limited through the Wirral Waters Investment Fund to support the development of new high quality industrial floorspace be approved; and
(2) the Director of Governance and Assurance in consultation with the Corporate Director of Business Management be authorised to draw up and sign a legal agreement between the Council and Peel Investments (Intermediate) Limited that is within State Aid regulations and subject to the conditions contained in Appendix 1 to the report.
Publication date: 12/04/2019
Date of decision: 25/03/2019
Decided at meeting: 25/03/2019 - Cabinet
Effective from: 24/04/2019