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Forest of Dean Levelling Up Fund Success

Announced in the UK Budget in March 2021, the Levelling Up Fund (LUF) will invest in infrastructure that improves everyday life across the UK. Nationally, the £4.8 billion fund will support regeneration and town centre investment, local transport projects, and cultural and heritage assets. Projects should be aligned to and support the Government’s Net Zero goals demonstrating low or zero carbon best practice.

The Levelling Up Fund is a competitive process open to all UK local authorities. Forest of Dean District is identified as a priority place in terms of the need for LUF capital infrastructure support. In June 2021, the District Council submitted a multiple project bid containing three interrelated projects and successfully secured £20 million capital grant support.

The Forest of Dean bid

Forest of Dean District Council worked in partnership with Hartpury University and Hartpury College and Cinderford Town Council to prepare the successful bid. 

The bid aims to:

  • Build connections across the Forest, helping to join our communities
  • Help our local entrepreneurs and homegrown talent find a home in the Forest, growing our economy and providing jobs by developing new, suitable space for businesses
  • Provide more and better leisure opportunities, helping people stay active and healthy through new leisure facilities and active travel options
  • Provide new further and higher education opportunities so our young people have more choice to get a good education

From the outset, all 3 project locations are being designed with carbon reduction, renewable energy and electric vehicle/bike charging points in mind to help to tackle the climate emergency.

There are three key elements to the bid:

Investment at Five Acres

The £9m proposal for the Five Acres site will create a new leisure and community hub brings a derelict site back into use providing modern leisure, community and business facilities for the area, a new 4 court sports hall and an artificial all weather sports pitch. The leisure and community hub would house a satellite site for Hartpury University and Hartpury College, bringing specialist education opportunities for young people to the Forest.

The wider site will be developed in partnership with West Dean Parish Council and will also include modern workspaces for local businesses and help promote active travel by connecting existing walking and cycling routes.

University, Careers and Enterprise Learning Centre at Hartpury campus

The flagship University Innovation, Careers and Enterprise Learning Centre, will use £10m to build on the current Hartpury University and Hartpury College site. It would support growth in student numbers, providing new opportunities to over 16’s in the Forest. The Centre would focus on encouraging and supporting local young people to stay in education or start their own business in the area.

It would also deliver a new Environmental Laboratory which would aim to spearhead new companies focussed on environmental technology based in the Forest of Dean.

Regeneration in Cinderford town centre

A total £880,000 will be spent in Cinderford town centre, regenerating a number of key buildings and bringing them back into use to provide modern co-working spaces for start up businesses and new community facilities, arts and events space.

The former HSBC bank, Rheola House and the Methodist Church which is a Listed Building and a local heritage asset will be refurbished to provide great spaces for residents to meet, work and socialise in, boosting town centre footfall.

Further information on the projects

You can find more detail on all the three proposed projects which will be included in the bid in the following summary documents.

Forest of Dean Capital Project Portfolio

To identify the final three projects included in the successful Levelling Up bid the council invited local organisations to submit expressions of interest (EOI).

A total of 16 EOI’s were submitted and were assessed against the Government criteria to make sure they were eligible before the final bid proposal was pulled together which the Council believes will have the best chance of success.
Projects that were not included in the Levelling Up bid have been compiled in a new Capital Project Portfolio. This document identifies a pipeline of short, medium and longer term projects and is intended to be a dynamic document.

The Portfolio will be used to help develop the new Shared Prosperity Fund Investment Plan to be submitted to Government before 1 August 2022.

See further details: Capital Project Portfolio

Government guidance

Below you can find links to information the Government has relating to Levelling Up in the UK:

Levelling Up Fund - Questions and answers

How did Forest of Dean District Council and partners become part of the bid and what will it target?

This bid is an unprecedented partnership between Forest of Dean District Council, Hartpury University and College and Cinderford Town Council focussed on regeneration and culture for the Forest of Dean as a whole.

Working together provides us with a unique opportunity to regenerate underused sites and with a focus on a resilient mixed model of culture, leisure and enterprise usage the redevelopment of all three sites will help to unlock future growth.

The project is underpinned by radically improving and interconnecting health outcomes, enterprise, and aspirations amongst young people in the Forest of Dean. The collective impact of this project will supercharge ‘levelling up’ in the district, home to some of the poorest pockets of health, enterprise and aspiration levels nationally.

Information for all 3 projects and the joint bid can be found here:

Will there be a pool included at the new Five Acres development?

We fully understand the public’s desire for swimming facilities at Five Acres. It is an ambition we share but not one we are able to commit to currently or within the Levelling Up fund.

Our intention is to develop Five Acres in such a positive way that it creates not only superb facilities but also a financial return.  Future income may be used for security on secondary development, which may mean a pool, or it may be needed to fund other essential council services, this will be subject to the financial health of the Council and Council Strategy at that time.  

Details of the Five Acres redevelopment and feedback from our initial community event can be found here:

Will the redevelopment of Five Acres affect other leisure centres in the Forest of Dean?

Forest of Dean District Council has secured LUF approval of £9m for the Five Acres project which will support the refurbishment and new build sports, leisure, education and employment proposals at Five Acres. The Council is providing match funding identified from existing budgets for the Five Acres site and this match funding will not reduce the budget available for the management and operation of other leisure centres across the Forest.

Have the Council looked at the effect on the local arts community if there is no theatre included at the new Five Acres site?

The new 4 court sports hall block at Five Acres will be designed with maximum flexibility to allow a wide range of uses and we will be investigating options to allow the internal space to function as a performance venue and ideally provide moveable staging, lighting and   audience seating for some competitive sports events. We will also look at the scope for a spectator gallery. We will need to think about the acoustics within the building for this to work well for music or dramatic performances.

The Council wants to optimise use of this building and so this would not be a traditional ball court facility only. Feedback from the drop-in event in November 2021 highlighted the installation of seating to be one of the priorities for those that completed the feedback forms to continue the tradition of arts being shown at Five Acres.

Cinderford Town Council are also working at Cinderford Methodist Church to enable a new cultural venue as part of the LUF funded project. This will help to refurbish the staging, sound and lighting at the venue to allow for community and arts based projects. 

Key to our collaborative working will be to ensure that events at Five Acres and The Wesley are complementary so that together a full annual programme can be developed at both LUF funded venues.

Details of the Five Acres redevelopment and feedback from our initial community event can be found here:

Did the Full Council vote on the final LUF project and decisions that were made?

Forest of Dean District Council Cabinet and Full Council approved the Levelling Up Fund bid submission on 10 June 2021 & 15 July 2021 respectively.

Full details for the papers from those meetings can be found here:

Cabinet -

Full Council -

How was the funding split and why did some partners receive more than others?

The Levelling Up funding approved for each site by the Government, is based upon the amount requested by each partner. Each partner was requested to submit projects that complied with the LUF funding prospectus and to demonstrate that a start on site could be made in 2021/22 and completed before March 2023/24.

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