City-Region Deal update
Progress of City-Region Deal projects has been reported to The Highland Council at its meeting today, 28 June.
The city-region deal is made up of ten discrete projects, each led by one of the partners. There has been significant progress with many of the projects over the past year. Most notably, Ness Wifi has been rolled out across Inverness and free wifi (“High-fi”) has gone live to several of the 14 towns identified across Highland.
Affordable housing projects aimed at young people are underway across the Highland area. The first 10 units are nearing completion at Raining’s Stairs, Inverness, whilst two further sites are being built at Glendoe Terrace, Inverness and in Drumnadrochit. EDI committee recently approved further sites at Alness, Aviemore, Inverness (Balloan Road, Balvonie, Ness-side and Stratton), Fort William, Grantown-on-Spey, Newtonmore and Ullapool.
The Science Skills Academy project led by HIE aims to transform the uptake and attainment in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects in all Highland schools. This will help to address skills shortages and equip young people with skills which are in high demand in the knowledge economy. Two of the five ‘Newton Rooms’ will be based in Thurso and Lochaber.
Other highlights from the past year were reported, include the North Tower, which was opened as a viewpoint in April 2017, and has attracted over 29,000 visitors in its first year. Additional design works were undertaken for improvements around the vicinity of the castle and buildings on Bridge Street have now been purchased to enable the development of a wider vision for the Inverness Castle site as a premium visitor attraction.
Phase 1 of the Inverness Westlink was completed and was opened to traffic in December 2017 and Phase 2 of the road will commence next spring with completion scheduled for late 2020. Transport Scotland has consulted on options for both the East Link and Longman Interchange projects. In advance of the opening of the East Link the Council has embarked on a project to increase the capacity of the Inshes bridge to take three lanes of traffic.
The Council and HIE are working on a business case for £20m of digital funding to dovetail with the Scottish Government’s R100 programme. In the meantime, the Council was successful in bidding for £4.2m of Local Full Fibre Network (LFFN). This will bring ultrafast (gigabit) connectivity to Inverness, Fort William, Thurso and Wick. The Highland Council was the only local authority in Scotland to gain this funding in Wave 2 of this bidding process.
Leader of the Highland Council Margaret Davidson said: “The City-Region Deal has already produced significant benefits across the Highlands. It will of course take time to realise the full potential and we must remind ourselves this is a 10 year programme and this is early days. Ultimately this is about generating a stronger and sustainable economy for the Highlands, with new jobs and a better future with more opportunities for our young people.
“We will continue to work with our partners to seek clarity over the digital part of the Deal as digital connectivity is vital to underpinning our future economic success.”
The City-Region Deal committed the Scottish Government to provide a funding package of up to £135m, the UK Government up to £53m, and local partners, the Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the University of the Highlands and Islands and Albyn Housing Society Limited up to £127m. This £315m funding is to be allocated over a 10 year period commencing from the date of signing of the deal.