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Projects in Mid Suffolk agreed for £1.1m pot

PUBLISHED: 16:23 08 October 2018 | UPDATED: 17:15 08 October 2018

A cafe and visitor centre at Needham Lake will get £300,000 of business rates retention cash  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

A cafe and visitor centre at Needham Lake will get £300,000 of business rates retention cash Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

More than £1million of funding for key projects in Mid Suffolk has been given the green light as part of a multi-million pound programme of countywide investment.

Councillor Jil Wilshaw at the official opening ceremony of The Foyer in Stowmarket, funded by the business rates retention scheme Picture: BABERGH AND MID SUFFOLK DISTRICT COUNCILSCouncillor Jil Wilshaw at the official opening ceremony of The Foyer in Stowmarket, funded by the business rates retention scheme Picture: BABERGH AND MID SUFFOLK DISTRICT COUNCILS

Suffolk was announced as one of only 10 areas in the country to be part of a pilot for the government’s 100% business rates retention scheme for this year.

Ordinarily, councils keep 50% of business rates to invest in their area while the remainder is sent back to central government.

For the 2018/19 year as part of the pilot, Suffolk’s councils are retaining 100% of the cash collected, meaning an additional £11m of money is available to invest in key projects.

In July, Suffolk Public Sector Leaders outlined the vision for the cash, with Mid Suffolk District Council giving the green light to its six schemes totalling £1.1m at Monday’s cabinet meeting.

The former Natwest in Stowmarket is in line for £240,000 of business rates retention Picture: GOOGLE MAPSThe former Natwest in Stowmarket is in line for £240,000 of business rates retention Picture: GOOGLE MAPS

Cabinet member for finance John Whitehead said: “This scheme encompassing all of Suffolk has attracted over £11m of extra funding.

“This list totals just shy of £1m so it means we have not exhausted all of the funding.”

Development of a cafe and visitor centre at Needham Lake is in line for £300,000, while the revamp of the former Natwest in Stowmarket is receiving £240,000.

A £200,000 fund will go towards developing a technology hub in Stowmarket, £150,000 for the purchase and redevelopment of The Foyer in Stowmarket, £60,000 for a growth engagement programme and £30,000 towards establishing a Central Suffolk Chamber of Commerce.

The remaining £200,000 of Mid Suffolk’s share will be distributed to any new projects identified, if given approval by the relevant cabinet members, or pumped into the existing projects agreed.

The schemes have all been approved by Suffolk County Council as part of the business rates retention agreement, with full businesses cases set to be developed.

Green group leader Rachel Eburne said the documents did not have enough detail, and added: “I just feel that, while I support getting funding into our own district and not other areas of the country, I feel we should have better communication on this and better information.”

After this year’s pilot, it is understood central government will look at whether to roll it out further, although it is understood it would be to allow councils to retain 75% rather than 100% if approved.

Babergh District Council is set to approve its five projects totalling just over £1m at Thursday’s cabinet meeting.

Mid Suffolk’s projects

•Needham Lake cafe/visitor centre - £300,000

•Stowmarket former Natwest – £240,000

•Stowmarket technology hub – £200,000

•Stowmarket The Foyer redevelopment – £150,000

•Inclusive growth engagement officer – £60,000

•Forming a Central Suffolk Chamber of Commerce – £30,000

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