Members at today’s Economy and Infrastructure Committee noted the significant progress which has been made on the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit.
The annual report for 2020/21, published on Highland Council’s website, illustrates some of the excellent work that the Deal enabled between April 2020 and March 2021.
The pandemic and latterly Brexit represented seismic events, which affected people’s lives, construction and the Deal.
For example, the Science Skills Academy, during a year of restrictions, developed new modules, which were delivered in the outdoor school environment, and sent comprehensive Maths and experiment packs which could be delivered by teachers within their bubble.
The Northern Innovation Hub has delivered training, support and collaboration opportunities for over 600 new and small business via digital and conferencing technologies.
And despite severe restrictions in the construction industry 282 new affordable homes were approved at locations across Highland.
In addition, the transformative West Link in Inverness was completed, which is expected to generate millions for the Highland capital through private investment
Chair of Highland Council’s Economy & Infrastructure Committee, Cllr Ken Gowans, said:
“We are now in the sixth year of the ten-year City-Region Deal.
“The projects have shown tremendous resilience in what has been an unprecedented three-year period, including COVID, Brexit and the current financial crisis.
“Deliverables and project spend have, in some case been slowed, but the focus remains on delivery of benefits, and to capitalise on its substantial opportunities and investments, including £135m invested from the Scottish Government and £53.1m from the UK Government.”
“We recognise the ongoing demand for housing in Highland and the fact that the deal has helped approve 282 homes across the region should be warmly welcomed.”
Between 2017 and 2018 there were 58 housing units developed in Inverness, Drumnadrochit, Ullapool, Lochyside and Munlochy.
Between 2018 and 2019 there were 54 housing units developed in Alness (Dalmore and Newfields), Ardersier, Ardgay, Dornoch (Deans Park and Kennedy Road), Inverness and Strathpeffer.
In 2019/20 there were 93 units developed in Avoch, Carrbridge, Fort William, Grantown on Spey, Inverness, Aviemore, Fort William and Kingussie.
And in 2020/21 there were 77 units developed in Drumnadrochit, Dornoch, Inverness, Fort William, Aviemore and Kincraig.
The overarching aims of the Deal remain to:
- help to rebalance the population through the aim of attracting and/or retaining an additional 1,500 young people in the 18-29 age group;
- create 1,125 direct jobs with a further 2,200 jobs in construction;
- help to upskill the labour market to move to a high wage high skill economy adding an extra £100m pa to the regional economy;
- deliver 6,000 homes over a 20-year-period, of which1,600 will be affordable; and
- deliver private sector investment of £800m over a20-year period in the region. The Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal, maintains a key focus on inclusive growth alongside the main themes of the deal.
The Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal is made up of 6 partners who co-ordinate and drive the component projects.
These organisations are The Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the University of the Highlands and Islands, Transport Scotland, Albyn Housing Association Limited and HITRANS.
In terms of spend against the original profile (September 2016), spend is behind what was initially estimated.
COVID-19 has impacted on the majority of projects, and consequently there have been delays in achieving spend.
The Programme Management Office and Senior Responsibility Officer will review with The Highland Council’s Finance Officer, to track and resolve any significant deviation from plan.
The total spend for 2020/21 was £6,348,689; spend to the end of that period was £25,810,923 and total Government funding was £188,100,000.
A number of projects have been completed, including the Inverness West Link project, and the Castle Viewpoint Project.
The Inverness Castle Project remains on programme and on budget, having largely escaped the effects of the pandemic.
Other projects that remain on track, despite the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit.
A full list of the projects, and their current status, can be found within the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal report