Mayor calls Helston's failed £17m bid a 'political decision' but adds small hope

Helston mayor Tim Grattan Kane has spoken at length about the town's failed Levelling Up bid <i>(Image: Newsquest)</i>
Helston mayor Tim Grattan Kane has spoken at length about the town's failed Levelling Up bid (Image: Newsquest)

The mayor of Helston has described the sense of disappointment over the town’s failed Levelling up bid as “immense” for the volunteers who had put in so many hours of work - describing the lack of funding as a "political decision."

Last week it was announced Helston would not be awarded the £17million it had bid for, to turn the empty Budgens supermarket into a hub for family activities and community services, to improve cycling routes around the town and link the Museum of Cornish Life with the CAST arts building.

The only Cornish bid to be successful was the Mid Cornwall Metro link between Falmouth and Newquay, granted just shy of £50 million.

Now, Helston’s mayor has spoken of the upset over the failed bid – but added that plans were already in place to look for alternative funding to make at least some elements still a reality.

Tim Grattan-Kane told the Packet: “The sense of disappointment was immense for the team who have worked so hard to prepare the bid. They spent thousands of hours, over several years to reach the stage for submission.

“It had the support of so many within the community. In fact, the ideas were generated by participants at the original launch events for the Helston CIC some years ago, when they were asked what they wanted in Helston. These ideas were honed over time and considerable work was undertaken, with funding from the Town Vitality Fund to develop them to a realistic stage.

“This required assessment of the viability of each project. This has been undertaken by the Place Shaping Board with support from Cornwall Council, Helston Town Council and elected representatives. The work by the volunteers was phenomenal, thousands of hours of work given for free. If purchased it would have cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.

“Why did they do this? Simply, they all care passionately about Helston and want to see it succeed.

“We are aware of instances over the past decade when Helston has not received funding from government, with a myriad of excuses as to why; ‘too small, not close enough to the coast, too far away from the heritage area’ and so on.

“The plans Helston submitted were ‘shovel ready’. Helston has missed out repeatedly, there is a real need for support.

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“In the same week Helston loses its last bank after more than 200 years and we face the threat of losing one of our GP practices. We have experienced the highest rate of retail premise vacancies - consider what has gone since the Covid outbreak: M&Co, Peacocks, Rackeys shoes, Barclays and Lloyds plus others elsewhere in the town.

“There are new businesses coming into town. I had the pleasure to open two over the Christmas period - One Blue Eye and Glow, I wish them every success for the future.

“We live in challenging times. The Levelling Up bid was intended to help create a town where people would want to live, work and visit helping to nurture a healthy business and cultural environment.

“I am not into the politics of jealousy. When I look at the successful bid for the Mid Cornwall Metro scheme I identify towns that already have train stations; we lost ours some 60 years ago.

“I watched the mayor of Falmouth, Steve Eva, a great advocate for his town, say that they were not in need of this scheme, Falmouth has other more pressing needs.

“The same day the Prime Minister appeared in an interview justifying why funds had been allocated to specific constituencies, including his own. He stated money should not be going to places that had already received significant funding. Truro was awarded approximately £20 million only a few years ago.

“We know that the bid submitted met all the criteria and made it to the shortlist. Therefore, as it didn’t fail on merit, it was a political decision to allocate the money elsewhere. I will let you draw your own conclusions.

“The bid team all feel disappointed for Helston. We will continue to work for success. There are meetings planned for next week to push for funding. There may be elements of the plans that are still attainable in the short term.

“I am concerned that as so many of Helston’s young people were involved in the planning for the old Budgens building we should not let them down. They perceive a lack of facilities for them in Helston. We must not let that continue, it will only cause longer term problems for all of us - our young people deserve better.”