'Covid has impacted us, but it won’t stop us': Key landmarks for the Glasgow City Region City Deal

The £1 billion plus Glasgow City Region City Deal is billed as one of the largest such initiatives in the UK.

Kevin Rush, director of regional economic growth at Glasgow City Region, cites aims such as seeing the River Clyde brought back into 'productive use'. Picture: John Devlin.

Here, Kevin Rush, details how progress is being achieved for the City Deal’s aims despite the coronavirus pandemic. Some of the answers have been edited for brevity.

In December, you heralded “ambitious” plans for the City Deal this year – can you give more details on progress so far, and goals for 2021 amid the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic?

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The past year has been challenging for us all and no less for the region's economy and businesses. However, thanks to our City Deal, we were fortunate enough to buck the trend in terms of funding – with our gateway review success unlocking a further £250 million government funding... and a number of City Deal projects drawing further extensive investment to the region, all at a crucial time when we need to protect the economy.

Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has had a knock-on effect on our £1bn City Deal Programme, due to, say, construction site closures. However, we are on top of this.

We’ve completed an extensive review of the 21 infrastructure projects, how they’ve been impacted by Covid-19 and how we can now move forward. We remain completely committed to proceeding with all of the City Deal infrastructure projects.

If you consider that so far our local regional businesses have benefited from more than £100 million worth of City Deal contracts (out of a spend of £239m), you can appreciate how important it is for our economy to get the programme moving again.

The City Deal infrastructure programme is absolutely fundamental to the region’s economic recovery. We will continue to work with government partners to accelerate, prioritise, and expand infrastructure capital investment, particularly on significant transformational projects such as Mission Clyde, Ravenscraig, the Metro and the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District in Renfrewshire.

Can you explain about investment in life sciences – for example, there is the MediCity life sciences incubator and the planned Living Lab. How will these and any other planned projects in the sector boost Glasgow's standing as a life science hub?

We are using City Deal funding, coupled with other investment and partnerships as a transformative catalyst for growth in life sciences and innovation.

Just a few months ago, one of our first City Deal projects, the MediCity life sciences incubator based in North Lanarkshire and set up five years ago, announced it had created more than 200 jobs... with companies based there raising £26m in private investment funding so far. With the original target of £5m, this is a fantastic success story.

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Last June, the University of Glasgow was awarded a £38m grant to create the Living Lab that brings cutting-edge science and innovation into a real-world clinical setting. It will form part of the university’s Glasgow Riverside Innovation District (Grid), which will be central to the creation of a cross-river Innovation District being developed through the City Deal … Glasgow is now one of the most innovative city-regions in Europe with three Innovation Districts – all catalysed by City Deal investment.

There is also Tradeston, where Barclays will host its flagship campus. What impact will this have on Glasgow and how key is the financial services sector to the city’s future?

Financial services has been crucial to Glasgow’s rebirth and resilience in recent years. We also know that it is a sector that has coped well with the last 12 months and has been at the forefront of innovative work practices.

Barclays is by far the most significant inward investment ever made in Scotland, with a new-build campus set to bring 2,500 new jobs and breathe new life into an area south of the river.

In the last month, more than £1m of City Deal funding was approved by Glasgow City Council for improvements at Tradeston, with Barclays matching it.

Much investment is being made in outlying suburbs of Glasgow, including the likes of Sighthill, and the £5b investment programme in home energy efficiency and clean energy. Can you highlight some key projects and how they will benefit the community?

With a population of almost two million, Glasgow City Region is by far the biggest region in the UK north of Manchester and our deal was intended to benefit people across the area. Some of our key projects outside the city centre include:

Ravenscraig: Ravenscraig in North Lanarkshire, on the site of the former steelworks and once one of Europe’s largest derelict sites, accounts for 13 per cent of the Glasgow City Region’s vacant and derelict land … thanks to the City Deal, a masterplan has now been approved for 3,000 new homes, extensive office, industrial and retail space, schools, an extension to the Ravenscraig Regional Sports Facility and a new seven-hectare town park.

Renfrewshire new Innovation District: This is expected to put Renfrewshire at the heart of Scotland’s manufacturing industry, estimated to create thousands of jobs and boost Scotland’s manufacturing sector by up to £350m in gross value added a year.

The City Deal was signed in August 2014 – how would you like things to look in August of this year?

We have big ambitions for the city region, which are undimmed by Covid.

We want to see the River Clyde – the greatest untapped development opportunity in Western Europe – brought back into productive use.

We want to see the development of a new metro system linking the south-west of the city region, including Glasgow Airport and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, and we want to see growth in those sectors that will be at the forefront of economic recovery.

Just a few days ago, we announced plans for a new film and television studio in the Kelvin Hall, and we have more aims for large-scale investment in the coming months. Covid has impacted us, but it won’t stop us.

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