LANCASHIRE once deemed European funding streams so essential that the county council even opened an office in Brussels.
That closed in 2010, but millions of pounds have continued to pour into the county from the EU to fund projects ranging from city centre redevelopment and coastal defences to charity work.
There have been benefits both little and large, with big boosts for research and small businesses.
The county as a whole has fared well in the latest funding rounds with some £211m allocated from the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund for 2014 to 2020. Only London, Leeds, Manchester and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly received higher allocations.
But critics claim it is impossible to find out just how much money has come into the county because Euro funding streams are so complex.
A spokeswoman for the European Commission said: “The whole point of the EU funding is that it does things that cannot be done with national budgets and aims to benefit all member states.
“By design the EU regional funding is managed by the national authorities of member states.”
County Coun David Borrow, LCC’s deputy leader, points out that the British Government has recently applied for European funding to cope with the problems caused across the UK by flooding and this an example of how the EU can help Lancashire too.
But looking at past funding, County Coun Geoff Driver, leader of the Tory opposition group on the council, said: ”I’m sure Lancashire will have some money from Europe. My point is it would have been far better if the money had been given to us direct in the first place and then we used and determined what we spent it on.”
SAMLESBURY Hall may be ancient, but it is modern day European funding which has helped to boost business.
The Hall currently has an application in for £80,000 LEADER programme funding to help towards completing its shepherd’s hut hamlet.
Hall director Sharon Jones said the Preston New Road site already benefited from £12,000 towards signage and a children’s play area from rural development funding in 2012/13.
She said: “It’s made a massive difference. Because we are a registered charity every penny we make here goes right back into the hall.
“We can’t afford to put our funds into directional signage and the same with the children’s play area. The hall in the past didn’t really welcome families and children, but it brings them in now.”
The hall has three shepherd’s huts for hire. But with planning permission for 28, they need all the help they can get.
“I have a roof to fix within the next 10 years which is going to cost somewhere around £500,000,” said Sharon. “The much-needed revenue from the huts is going towards that.
“It’s glamping with a big G - each hut has double bunk beds and all have a shower and loo.”
CHRIS Sandham is not saying “cheese” when it comes to Europe.
The Managing Director of J.J, Sandham Ltd is concerned there isn’t much to smile about - despite his long-established family cheese-making business at Garstang Road, Barton, near Preston having received 40 per cent funding towards a new smokehouse four years ago.
While grateful for the funding which had to be matched by their own 60 per cent investment, he is cautious about the state of the European Union now.
The LEADER programme funding enabled the Sandham cheese making business to smoke not just their own cheeses, but those of other suppliers from counties including Derbyshire, Cumbria and Shropshire.
He said: “The funding has been very useful and beneficial. We wanted to make sure whatever project we did we did to the best of our abilities.”
He says from the company’s point of view it has been a great success, but confesses: “I feel I’ve got a bit of an issue here. I’ve had major benefit from European funding, but I’ve got major reservations about the EU.
“I just think it’s a broken model and I must admit I’m erring on the side of exit. I don’t see how it can effectively carry on.”
He is also concerned because he says in the ongoing crossfire of the current EU debate it’s hard to know who to believe with so many conflicting claims and statistics.
“I think it’s a vote the public shouldn’t be having,” he said. “Alot of people don’t understand what it is about. We don’t know the implications.”
FOR Liz Russell, founder and managing director of Envirosystems, Barton, LEADER funding of just over £30,000 in 2012 has been “very helpful,” enabling her to grow her business which specialises in animal bedding, innovative silage additives and nutrient optimisers for the agricultural industry.
But she has also seen the other side of the EU, complaining about the burdensome costs of gaining approvals for product sales and long waits for decisions.
She explained that the funding she received had helped bring packaging and mixing of the company’s products in-house.
”We went from 900 sq feet to about 4,500 sq. feet. It’s given us a better working space. It’s transformed our business. It allowed us to develop our export trade.”
Her company sells across the world and the investment also aided quality control.
But the winner of the Queen’s Award for Innovation in 2006 also admitted: “I’m fed up of the red tape.”
Time-consuming applications and long waits for answers are not good news for business development.
Liz cites the fact that creating a dossier of evidence on trials of a product had cost her £100,000.
”When you do all these trials it’s massive. But this is a small business.”
WHERE DOES THE MONEY GO?
LANCASHIRE County Council has accessed an estimated £35m in EU funding since 2008.
Around £11.4m of this was used to help deliver superfast broadband across the county and around £10m went on business support, including help for small and medium sized enterprises.
The county council says this cash created 1,166 jobs, safeguarded a further 294, and grants to help rural businesses grow created 290 jobs.
Lancashire also received £1.6m for a scheme aimed at reducing the number of young people not in education, employment and training.
Marketing Lancashire received £148,942 European grant between 2010-13 for tourism and rural food projects.
But the bulk of the county’s funding is distributed through the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership. And the EU also makes payments directly to other organisations.
The Fishergate Central Gateway Project was part funded by £1.38m from the European Regional Development Fund. It aimed to improve a key gateway into the city and it was hoped the changes would attract more commercial investment to the area, boost growth and create jobs.
But the new shared space traffic arrangements have proved controversial with many calling it a waste of money.
UCLan successfully secured more than £10m from the last ERDF funding round. Of this £6.5m went towards the cost of its £15m Media Factory. The cash enabled an additional floor to be added. It also funded the creation of the Northern Lights Business Support Programme.
Northern Lights was set up in 2008 and offers start-up businesses mentoring support and advice, office facilities, access to workshops and networking opportunities.
A unviersity spokeswoman said it had helped hundreds of small and medium sized enterprises in the region through other ERDF funded initiatives such as the MORE Programme, which provided advice, guidance, business support and access to facilities to help the growth of more than 165 North West creative, digital and media companies.
Over the past 10 years Preston Council has also been allocated more than £20m of European cash, while Lancaster has received £9m since 2000.
Preston has used ERDF funding for initiatives including enabling people to learn new technology skills and caring for the homeless, aiding community organsisations like Emmaus.
Improvements at both the university and Preston Railway Station were all boosted by different funding streams from the EU.
Blackpool used its £25m-plus allocation over the past decade to fund major infrastructure projects including boosting the sea defences, The Tower Headland development including the creation of an events space outside the Tower, ensuring the town’s trams stay on track and projects such as the council’s purchase of The Winter Gardens and the purchase and maintenance of Blackpool’s famous Tower.
Lancaster projects funded by the EU have included the Lancaster Business Development Scheme, the Lancaster and Morecambe Economic Development Zone (EDZ) and Lancaster Square Routes, with the EU pumping £438,524 into the second phase of city centre work.
EU grants and subsidies of £7.9m helped fund CityLab and The Storey Centre for Creative Industries in Lancaster, the Port of Heysham Industrial Estate, Heysham Business Park industrial access and the creation of a network of cycleways and safe walking routes to the district’s main employment areas.
Luneside East housing development on St George’s Quay also received £2.5m.
Boost Business Lancashire is a county ERDF-backed Business Growth Hub which opened in 2013 and offers access to business support programmes.
And when it comes to research, Lancashire secured €55,652,739 between 2007-2013 and has so far secured €14,789,520 under its successor Horizon 2020, which has just started.
Nearly £23m in European Union cash has helped fund specialist programmes at Lancaster University over the last seven years.
Projects boosted by European Regional Development(ERDF) Rural Development Programme(RDF) funding:
• InfoLab21 Scientific & Technology Exploitation Project (ISTEP)Lancaster University: £1,211,990
• Lancashire Growth Hub: £3,622,989
• LEAP High Growth: £900,000
• The North West Eco-Innovation Programme: £1,734,537
• Development of Innovative Small Wind Turbine Technologies: £1,077,372
• Infolabs Strategic Innovation Support Programme (ISISP): £1,975,314
• Innovation Lab: £1,154,672
• Lancashire Innovation Network: £1,855,000
• UNITE for Business: £3,871,834
• Lancaster Square Routes: £485,579
• Tower Festival Headland Enhancements: £2,666,527
• Blackpool Leisure Assets Purchase and Development: £14,000,000
• Blackpool Seafront Parade 5: £703,151
• Business Start Up Support in Lancashire (BSUS Lancashire): £2,393,877
• Rural Development Funding paid for Hamilton House Rural Workshops: £37,254
• Community at the Wharf in Burscough: £14,717
• Logs Direct: £29,363
• Caton with Littledale Action for Play: £17,258
• Kirkham Memorial Park:£ 21,579
• BADGES Great Eccleston Scout Hut: £75,000
• Dolphinholme Playground: £8,589
• [email protected]: £19,542
• Lancashire Racing Stables: £50,705
• Fiddlers Lancashire Crisps: £75,000
• Forshaw’s Salads: £35,107.00
• The Odd Chair Company: £46,383.00
• Lancashire Community Finance: £4,707.00
• Catforth Village Hall: £35,663.00
• Samlesbury War Memorial Hall: £42,067.00
• Samlesbury Hall: £36,097.00
• Old Holly Farm extension: £30,390.00
• Brock Auction Mart: £12,108.00