A CLUSTER of villages in the shadow of the doomed, 500-job Alcan aluminum smelter have been given a £1m funding boost aimed at helping transform their fortunes.
Lynemouth, together with its neighbouring communities of Ellington, Linton and Cresswell, has been awarded the Lottery cash in the final, £200m round of grants from the Big Local programme.
The former pit villages near the Northumberland coastline are among 50 “forgotten” areas chosen for assistance because they have major social and economic needs, and have missed out on funding and investment in the past.
The £1m boost comes as welcome news for the area, which is coming to terms with the phased closure of the Rio Tinto Alcan plant in Lynemouth and the loss of its 515 jobs.
Villagers will work with Local Trust – the organisation set up to deliver the Big Local programme – to establish a residents’ panel, which will decide how the windfall should be spent over the next 10 years.
It can be used for anything from training and employment schemes, to tackling anti-social behaviour, creating new community facilities or providing more activities for young people.
A Local Trust representative will help residents decide how to spend the funding, and provide training to increase their confidence, skills and knowledge so they are better equipped to make positive changes in the future.
Lynemouth is the first community in Northumberland to receive funding from the Big Local programme, which has previously handed out grants to 100 others across the country.
Yesterday Lynemouth parish council chairman Cath Davidson said: “This is wonderful news and we have to be very careful about how we use the funding, because it might be the only bit of good news we get for a long time.
“It is a lot of money, which doesn’t seem to have many strings attached, and I believe we will have to bring the whole community together and discuss how to spend it.”
Local county councillor Milburn Douglas said: “I’m highly delighted by this announcement, which might well be linked to the Alcan closure and the levels of deprivation in this area.
“Lynemouth and the surrounding villages really need this sort of funding, and it will be very well received.
“Employment and training is the big priority here, but new leisure and community facilities would also be welcome. I don’t think there will be any shortage of projects for this money to be spent on.” James Turner, the Big Lottery’s North East head of region, said the area had been selected for funding because it had missed out in the past, had a real sense of community and its needs had been reinforced by the Alcan closure decision.
He said: “We want this to be resident-led, so we are trying not to be too directive about the use of the funding. The idea is that it’s their cash to use in the ways they see as appropriate.”
Nat Sloane, the Big Lottery Fund’s England chair, said: “These areas have for many years been overlooked and have missed out on vital funding and resources. They have people who are high on aspiration but, until now, have been low on opportunity.
“We will redress that balance, giving them the power, confidence and ability to spend this funding in the ways that matter most to their community.”
Two other North East communities – North Ormesby in Middlesbrough and Roseworth in Stockton-on-Tees – have also been awarded £1m each in the latest round of Big Local funding.