The Government's decision to match EU funding with Exchequer funding for the EU Just Transition Fund is excellent news for the Midlands.
I welcome Cabinet’s consideration of the draft Territorial Just Transition Plan, and the Government’s agreement to match EU funding as well as details of the draft priorities for investment. The decision confirms that the EU Just Transition fund allocation will be 100% matched with Exchequer resources, allowing for a combined total allocation of up to €168.9m over the period up to 2027.
Today’s Government decision on the draft Territorial Just Transition Plan is a trigger point for agencies, local authorities, business communities and social enterprises to align their activities to one or more of the priorities and fine tune project proposals. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the Midlands region to invest in our future, a future of vibrant and viable, inclusive rural and urban communities.
This draft Plan forms the basis for negotiations with the European Commission and ultimately the EU Just Transition Fund allocation for the Midlands region. Time is of the essence and I am delighted that the draft Plan will now proceed to the European Commission for observations and negotiation. I have pushed for Exchequer funding to be 100% and today’s decision is an endorsement by Government of the importance and the direction of the Just Transition Plan and Programme.
The draft Plan proposes 3 priority areas for investment:
Priority 1, with an indicative allocation of €94m, proposes to support local initiatives through a competitive grants scheme as well as regional tourism and enterprise strategies. Priority 2, with an indicative value of €50m, supports innovative approaches to regeneration and repurposing of land. Priority 2 includes a particularly exciting proposal for the development of a Centre of Excellence to undertake research on farming on peat soils in the Midlands. Priority 3 focuses on the development of sustainable transport in the territory through investments by the National Transport Authority in the decarbonisation of existing routes and fleets and will contribute to increasing the capacity of environmentally friendly public transport in the Midlands.
I am delighted that my Department is bringing forward proposals under Priority 1 and 2 to provide solutions for climate, biodiversity and the economy through job creation and innovation. My Department proposes a development of ‘Bioeconomy Districts’ and ‘Living Labs’ to support circular bioeconomy value chain development.