Government sells former RDA buildings in Cornwall

Millions of pounds of European funding originally allocated for Cornwall will now go to central government through the sale of former Regional Development Agency (RDA) assets.

The government axed the RDAs in 2010, replacing them with Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP).

The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) took on 29 former RDA sites in Cornwall in 2011.

About 20% of the Cornwall portfolio has already been sold off, totalling £3m.

The developments were in part funded through Objective One - one of three programmes set up to help reduce differences in social and economic conditions within the European Union.

Private investment

The BBC understands that some of the sites will be sold for less than the original sum invested.

Both Cornwall Council and the LEP said it was "not as simple as losing the objective one investment".

They claim that overall Cornwall has "still made gains because of it".

Sandra Rothwell, head of economic development and culture at Cornwall Council claims that without Objective One funding injected into the sites initially they "could never have been made commercially viable in the first place".

"It's something called a 'cost value gap', which means the funds are specifically there to deal with this problem that Cornwall has, so the lower the value of the land the higher cost of getting that land to a position that is commercially viable that would attract private investors to even want to invest there."

HCA head of area Ian Knight said: "We have worked closely with partners to look at how the sites we have inherited can be used to support their local plans and provide local businesses with a platform to grow.

"This is a challenging task because of the impact the recession has had on the market and the fact that the local economy in Cornwall has its own issues to address in terms of levels of demand, location and the state of some sites we inherited.

"But, in a relatively short space of time, we have started to see some progress and success, with development happening and new opportunities being created which is just the sort of thing the economy needs."

Mr Knight, who said that the HCA had invested around £35m in housing-related activity in Cornwall in the three years up to April, added: "There's a great deal of work still to be done, to invest in sites, provide the infrastructure needed and ensure a well-managed disposal to organisations who will unlock long-term benefits for the area.

"We have shown through the positive start we have made that we're on the way to achieving this."

Conservative MP George Eustice, Conservative MP for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle said: "The truth is this Objective One money has gone to build new industrial units to deal with difficult sites where there wasn't a solution before."

Set up in 1999 to promote economic growth, the RDAs were replaced by Local Economic Partnerships involving councils, businesses, colleges and communities.

  • Story amended on 30 July 2013 to clarify the position of the Homes and Communities Agency.

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