Torridge’s brand-new Place Board has met for the first-time this month, to discuss how the group will work to maximise the opportunities presented as part of the national DLUHC Levelling Up programme, which could commit up to £20-million funding for the District.

The Board has been established to shape and manage the Torridge Place priorities in line with DLUHC requirements, and is committed to a joined-up approach for the benefit of Torridge and the wider north Devon region. The Board will steer the programme of work to include projects that focus on improving the long term economic opportunities for the area, ensuring that the environmental and health impacts of delivering the agreed projects are also considered on behalf of local communities.

The meeting saw chief executive of South West Business Council Paul Coles appointed to chair of the board.

Cllr Ken James, leader of Torridge District Council, said: “I was pleased to welcome many of the leaders of Northern Devon institutions across the health, education, business and voluntary sectors to the inaugural meeting of the Torridge Place Board. The Board aims to make the most of government’s Levelling Up agenda, bringing further education, skills and training opportunities to the young people of Northern Devon. I was particularly pleased that Paul Coles, CEO of South West Business Council, accepted the role of Chair, bringing a wealth of experience in business and leadership to the Board.”

Paul Coles, chief executive of South West Business Council and Chair of the Torridge Place Board, said: “I’m delighted to be chairing the new Torridge Place Board. It will bring together key stakeholder groups across all of northern Devon so that we can collaborate with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on up to £20-million Levelling Up programme in Torridge. The timescales for delivery of any projects will be incredibly tight, but the board are committed to supporting our colleagues in local and central government to make it a success. There is much opportunity across both Torridge and northern Devon to build on our key sectors whilst also creating new opportunities around high-tech engineering,  clean maritime technologies, aquaculture, Agri-tech, and floating offshore wind, to name just a few. Much to do in very short timescales!”

Sir Geoffrey Cox, Conservative MP for Torridge and West Devon, added: “At the first meeting of the Torridge Place Board, we marked an important step towards the commencement of Torridge’s historic Levelling Up Partnership (LUP) with the government. The LUP, one of only twenty in the country, gives us the chance to spread this regeneration to the whole of Torridge and will see our district share an initial £400-million of direct government investment on local priorities designed to lift our economy and create new opportunities for young people. The Torridge Place Board will steer and guide the Partnership to concentrate the government task force on the projects and initiatives that will be most effective in bringing new inward investment to our district and enhancing our prosperity and wellbeing.”

The Board noted that the funding provided by DLUHC was strictly capital spend and will be focused on priority projects according to the Levelling Up finance guidelines provided by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) in January 2024.

Whilst the Board has been brought together for the 2024/25 Levelling Up delivery programme, it will continue beyond this period to support the longer term economic goals of the area.