Funding of almost £7m has been agreed for three major projects, set to bring in tourists and boost the Sheffield City Region’s cultural economy.
At a Mayoral Combined Authority (MCA) meeting, chaired by Mayor Dan Jarvis and held in Rotherham yesterday (Monday 17 December) members agreed Local Growth Fund (LGF) money for the schemes in Rotherham and Doncaster.
Funding of £5m was approved for the Yorkshire Wildlife Park, while packages of £1.5m and £0.4m were also agreed for Gullivers Valley and the Vulcan to the Sky projects respectively.
Mayor Jarvis said: “I said I would promote the Sheffield City Region’s cultural and tourism offer as Mayor, and working with the Local Enterprise Partnership, I’m getting on with the job. It’s great to be able to fund such a diverse range of projects, which will create new jobs, boost our visitor economy and complement the existing range of fantastic arts, culture and heritage sites we have here in our region.
“Not only do cultural attractions enrich our quality of life, but they act as a driver for economic growth. By working together, we can be more than the sum of our parts.
“With a growing number of major visitor attractions we must now do more to promote them. That’s why I set up a meeting for local authorities, the Mayoral Combined Authority and Welcome to Yorkshire last month, to explore how we can come together across the region to sell our exceptional offer across the North, the UK and internationally.”
Sir Nigel Knowles, chair of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Funding these transformative schemes is a great example of how the public and private sector work together in the SCR to get things done.
“Our ability to work collaboratively, in a straightforward and practical way, is one of the real drivers for growing investor confidence in our region.”
The funding agreed yesterday will enable a significant expansion of the popular Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Doncaster, which will add an additional 150 acres to the current site. The extension will provide a new entrance, expanded car parking, many new animal reserves and a large lake.
There will be also a visitor hub incorporating a 148-bedroom hotel, an events and conference venue, restaurants and shops, creating more than 230 additional full time-equivalent jobs. The Yorkshire Wildlife Park opened in April 2009 and currently attracts around 750,000 visitors each year. It aims to grow to 1.2m visitors by 2022, which will put it in the top four zoos and wildlife parks in the country.
Steve Minion, Chairman of the Wild Life Group, said: “ The rapid growth of Yorkshire Wildlife Park and the support we have had from South Yorkshire confirmed to us that there was the potential for a game-changing project in Doncaster.
“However, turning ‘the dream’ into reality was never going to be easy and it has taken two years of intensive activity to get to this point.
“We are grateful to many partners for their help and assistance, and in particular the SCR who are providing vital support. The development will both create jobs and economic benefits to the region as well as helping add to the tourism offer in Doncaster.“
Funding for the Gullivers Valley project, meanwhile, contribute £1.5m towards the £7.5m cost of the whole project. the theme park, earmarked for the Pithouse West site in Rotherham, will offer rides and attractions aimed at children aged
from two to 13. It will also include a water play zone, a climbing zone and an ecology centre encompassing forest classrooms and outdoor learning.
The resort will also offer family-friendly accommodation in the form of “glamping”, woodland lodges, and hotels. The project is anticipated to bring £37m in private sector investment to the City Region and create around 250 new jobs.
Julie Dalton from Gullivers Fun said: “This year we celebrated our 40th year in business, operating family theme park resorts in Matlock, Warrington and Milton Keynes. We are still family owned and our new site at Rother Valley will bring together all the best bits of all our other resorts, including many new and exciting attractions.
“As a family we are very excited to be developing in the Sheffield City Region. This funding will allow us to bring forward a number of elements of the resort that would have not been built until later phases, creating a more exciting resort for our guests to experience and more jobs for local residents.”
Meanwhile, funding for the Vulcan to the Sky project will help to create a permanent home in Doncaster for the restored Vulcan XH558 bomber.
The new hangar will be a significant heritage attraction, telling the story of the Royal Air Force during the Cold War and providing public access to the Vulcan. It will also be a setting for conferences and private events.
Dr Robert Pleming, speaking on behalf of the Vulcan to the Sky Trust, said: “We are obviously thrilled that the Sheffield City Region has recognised the significance of the region being the permanent home to the Vulcan by the award of a significant grant towards the new hangar.
“The Vulcan to the Sky Trust is working closely with an investor to deliver the building costs of the new hangar, based at Doncaster Sheffield Airport and have recently signed heads of terms to move this investment forward.
“The funding from the Sheffield City Region will be vital in delivering this heritage hangar, ensuring that XH558 is given the home she deserves and that the public can once again visit this iconic aircraft. We look forward to being able to announce the completion of contractual arrangements, and will keep supporters of the Vulcan up to date with our progress.”
By 2021 Government will have invested over £12bn through the Local Growth Fund, allowing LEPs to use their local knowledge to get all areas of the country firing on all cylinders.
There are 38 LEPs covering the whole of England, which are investing LGF money in a wide range of projects including transport, skills, business support, broadband, innovation and flood defences.
Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, Jake Berry MP, said: “The Government is committed to boosting economic growth across the Northern Powerhouse so we can build a Britain fit for the future, especially as we prepare to exit the European Union.
“This £6.9 million investment from the Local Growth Fund will go towards developing three new cultural hubs to celebrate Sheffield’s rich heritage.
“Not only will the centres give local youngsters the chance to learn more about their region’s history in modern surroundings, it will be a magnet for tourists too. Almost 500 new jobs will be created as a result, which is another huge point to celebrate.”