Cash bid winners and losers react

Herwig Vennekens managing director of Haribo
Herwig Vennekens managing director of Haribo

MILLIONS of pounds of government cash will “save” Pontefract’s Haribo factory from closure and boost Featherstone’s Girnhill Lane estate – but funding bids for two massive regeneration projects have been rejected.

The Front Street confectionery plant and Wakefield Council are among 50 successful first round bids to the coalition’s £1.4 billion Regional Growth Fund (RGF), but no cash will ge given for Castleford’s long-awaited bus and rail interchange and Pontefract’s former Prince of Wales Colliery.

Burnt out house on Ashcroft, Girnhill Lane estate, Featherstone.'p6598e902

Burnt out house on Ashcroft, Girnhill Lane estate, Featherstone.'p6598e902

Wakefield Council received £8.1million for a regeneration scheme which will improve roads and other infrastructure on four sites across the district in Tuesday’s announcement – including Featherstone.

However, council leader Coun Peter Box said it would now review its bids that were not awarded any funding.

He told the Express: “We are obviously disappointed that not all our bids were successful and will be looking at any other options we can explore.”

In February the Department for Transport announced it would not pay for the Castleford’s new bus and rail hub – but councillors had hoped a separate bid to the RGF would save the Metro and council scheme from the cuts.

Castleford Coun Tony Wallis, who launched a petition in support of the project with Coun Mark Burns-Williamson, said: “The news is so disappointing and a massive blow to the town.

“We have been working on this project for more than ten years and the town desperately needs a new bus and rail station.

“This was supposed to be our ‘plan B’. It fit the objectives of the RGF perfectly – it would create new jobs and attract new businesses to the town. I don’t really understand why it’s been rejected and we must fight on.”

At Pontefract’s Prince of Wales Colliery, outline permission has already been given for offices, residential and leisure uses.

Former Prince of Wales colliery site.

Former Prince of Wales colliery site.

It is proposed that 900 new homes will be built at the UK Coal-owned site.

However, the government announcement brought good news for Haribo, which plans to build a new factory in Normanton.

Business secretary Vince Secretary said the company’s Pontefract site “would probably have closed down and moved somewhere else” without the additional investment.

Herwig Vennekens, company managing director, said: “This funding will allow Haribo to expand the UK-based business through a new West Yorkshire facility that will create an estimated 286 new jobs.

“Our plans will complement our existing factory in Pontefract, safeguarding 478 positions and reinforcing our continued commitment to the region whilst supporting the growth and long-term strategy of Haribo in the UK.”

Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper welcomed the news but slammed the government for cutting support to businesses.

She said: “Government support for local jobs and business has been cut by right back and local unemployment is going up as a result. And the government has ditched the Castleford interchange which was widely supported by local businesses to boost the town.

“The government should be backing Haribo and other new jobs and businesses as well.”

Wakefield Council claims its bid for new infrastructure in four areas will create around 107 jobs for the five year construction period, with 69 apprenticeships.

Featherstone MP Jon Trickett said: “I am relieved to hear that the Girnhill Lane scheme will now go ahead.

“I have campaigned for many years nationally and regionally for support for this particular scheme.

“If the government had been churlish enough to pull the plug it would have meant the £4.5million that had already been invested in these various schemes would have gone down the drain”.

Joanne Roney, council chief executive, added: “We now have an opportunity to affect real change in Featherstone and the South East.

“This regeneration will not only create new and affordable housing, but will increase employment opportunities and bring new private sector investment into the area.”