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Business & Economy

£1.2 million awarded to North East voluntary, community, and social enterprise projects

More than £1.2 million has been awarded by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to voluntary, community, and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations in the North East.

The funding has been awarded from the Local Growth Fund VCSE Capital Grant programme, which aims to help communities across the North East recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The money will fund projects that support young people in the region and contribute to a green economic recovery.

One of the organisations to receive support is Meadow Well Connected, which will receive £54,612 towards the regeneration of a community garden to act as a hub for the local community, with opportunities for young people to undertake training in landscaping, biodiversity, and horticulture.

Mandi Cresswell, Chief Officer of Meadow Well Connected, said: “The North East LEP funding will give a massive boost to our regeneration plans for our five-acre community garden and enable us to support local young people to gain skills and experience of working outside. It will create more biodiversity locally and create shared spaces for local people to enjoy.

“Our outdoor spaces have proved vital during the COVID-19 restrictions, providing opportunities to meet safely and connect with nature. We can’t wait to start this transformative work which will make a real difference to people of all ages.”

In Sunderland, Back on the Map — a charity which works to improve quality of life for residents of Hendon — has been granted £100,472 to turn an empty shop into a community café and training space, which will work to counter food poverty as well as offer training placements for young people with learning disabilities.

Julie Gray, Chair of Back on the Map, said: “We are delighted to receive this award from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership. The funds will enable us to develop a sustainable local enterprise which will provide training and employment opportunities as well as improving local retail premises and simulating the local economy in an economically deprived area.”

In Gateshead, Chopwell Regeneration CIO have been awarded a grant of £100,000 to convert a former bank into an enterprise and welfare centre in rural west Gateshead. The centre will include a food bank, community café, employability skills training, and space and support for small businesses.

Jodie Barwick-Bell, Chair of Chopwell Regeneration CIO, said: “We are over the moon to receive this grant which will enable us to provide vital services from this autumn. The impact of COVID on our already deprived community is severe and the need is significant. As a result of the grant, we will now be able to provide much-needed support to our community, including in particular education and training opportunities. Thank you so much to the North East LEP.”

A further 12 organisations also received funding to support a range of VCSE projects across the region.

Helen Golightly, Chief Executive of the North East LEP, said: “The VCSE sector does vital work, not only in supporting communities but it also makes a valuable contribution to creating a stronger, greener economy.

“We recognise the central role that voluntary, community, and social enterprise-led projects have to play as we work together as a region to build a stronger post-pandemic North East, and this new funding will help to bring forward projects that will benefit communities across our region.”

The North East LEP is a public, private, and education sector partnership that covers Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, and Sunderland local authority areas.

By 2021 the Government will have invested over £12 billion through the Local Growth Fund to LEPs across the country. Every £1 invested could generate £4.81 in benefits.

A £270.4 million deal supports the North East LEP’s delivery of the Strategic Economic Plan, which aims to create 100,000 more and better jobs by 2024. It will support major capital investments to promote innovation, economic and skills infrastructure, and sustainable transport as part of the North East Growth Deal.

Helen Golightly added: “All the projects which have been brought forward for funding have real potential to contribute towards a greener, better future for the North East and to engage young people with opportunities to develop their environmental awareness and skills.

“The past year has hit our region hard but I’m confident that we can collaborate and move towards recovery together, and local projects like this can play a central role.”