Last week, we went to see EU funds in action through a visit The Genesis Centre at Somerset College for a tour of their facility.
For anyone who is not familiar with the centre, Genesis is a £2.5m sustainable construction resource and learning centre for the South West; an idea which originally grew out of a student project. The centre demonstrates that traditional construction methods can work hand in hand with recycled materials and innovative technologies to create contemporary buildings that are more energy and water-efficient, create less waste, and
perform to a high standard for the comfort of building users.
The centre houses a range of renewable energy systems which are used for demonstrations and training purposes, ensuring students and construction industry professionals receive hands on experience of working with low carbon technologies.
The centre was funded by the South West Regional Development Agency and the Learning & Skills Council, with funds from the European Regional Development Fund, and is one of many examples of forward-thinking projects that have benefitted from EU funding across the South West.
The South West has in fact been a major beneficiary of EU Funding, with Cornwall most notably receiving significant sums of money from various EU programmes.
Cornwall has received over €450 million in Regional Development funds along with nearly €140 million from the Social Fund. In cash terms, EU membership is worth over half a billion euros in funding to the most deprived county in our region.
For example, just over £7.5 million of ERDF has supported two key projects – the Pendennis Building & Redevelopment of the Yacht Basin. The extensive redevelopment of the Pendennis Building has seen the previous shore-side facility almost completely rebuilt, replaced by larger modernised construction halls, workshops and office space.
Pendennis has become one of Cornwall’s most important employers, thanks to EU Funding they significantly improved the facilities and 315 existing jobs have been safeguarded, with 60 permanent skilled jobs created to date in the Falmouth Docks area. This work builds on the historic maritime tradition of the town and has helped to deliver the Port of Falmouth masterplan.
The European Social Fund (ESF) Raising Aspirations project (RAP) also helps low-skilled people and particularly women, develop their careers through learning and training. Plymouth University runs the project with partners, including Cornwall College. For example, at the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust, 22 lower-paid employees successfully completed a higher education module through Cornwall College.
It is fair to say that many of our partners in the EU are more sympathetic to the needs of rural areas than our government is, hence these supportive funding schemes. It is highly unlikely that such funding would continue if decisions were made at Westminster, leaving communities in the West Country vulnerable.