DERBYSHIRE County Council has vowed to continue fighting for cash to pay for the proposed new train station in Ilkeston, despite two recent funding blows discovered by the Advertiser this week.
The problems emerged during a meeting between county council leader Andrew Lewer, the council’s strategic director Ian Stephenson, Erewash MP Jessica Lee and Advertiser editor Peter Hemmett about the state of the bid for the station.
At the meeting, Mr Stephenson said that hopes of securing cash from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund (RGF) were scuppered when they were advised that the proposed bid in July would fail on the grounds that it would not directly create jobs at the station.
And he also revealed that the county council had failed to get a share of Network Rail’s £100m Station Commercial Project Facility Fund (SCPFF) because the people in charge decided the money could only go towards the refurbishment of existing stations rather than the building of new facilities.
He added: “On a technical stage we are very close, we just need the funding. We could deliver the station quite quickly subject to planning applications.
“We are now looking at other options to find that cash. It is a great project and is supported across all parties and across the areas councils and by citizens too.
“We remain optimistic we will find the remaining money we need and we will advise the cabinet in September our preferred funding option and we will then pursue that.”
The meeting came about after Miss Lee and Mr Hemmett decided to take a trip to Matlock to quiz the council about the station after months of waiting for news.
Miss Lee said: “It was important to emphasise to the county council how important this issue is. It is not just about train travel but all the socio-economic benefits that it will bring too.
“On one hand I felt reassured because I thought there was a genuine commitment but I maintain that it was unfortunate that interested parties like myself and the Advertiser were not informed about the decision not to continue with the RGF bid.”
Despite the funding setbacks, council bosses have pledged to continue investigating other funding streams to make the dream a reality and say there are still reasons to be positive.
One piece of good news has seen the final estimate for the cost of the Ilkeston train station drop from the original figure of £5m/£6m to stand at £4.05m – with £1m already secured from the Nottinghamshire Housing Growth Fund.
Mr Stephenson did admit there are concerns about how long that £1m will be available but providing progress can be made, this leaves a shortfall of £3.05m which the county council is trying to fill.
And Miss Lee said she would continue working hard in Westminster to garner support for the scheme.
“I will now go back to Ministers in the Department for Transport and show that his is a low-cost project with value and longer-term investment that we can get out of it and is worthwhile funding,” she said.
“It is tantalisingly close to being possible but still out of our grasp and I will be working hard to see what can be done to make it a possibility.”
Mr Lewer also threw his weight behind the plans and said the council would do all it could to try and get the station up and running.
He said: “We want this to happen, A huge amount of time and effort has gone into this.
“We are working our way through the best funding streams to allow Ilkeston station to happen but we still need to get the right impetus from the Department of Transport and Network Rail. However, we are still very much committed to bringing a new station to Ilkeston.”
After the meeting Mr Hemmett said: “I’m grateful that the council agreed to meet us at such short notice but we felt that some answers were needed about the station bid after months of ‘radio silence’.
“While the news we got was not entirely positive, I was pleased to hear the council’s promises that they will not give up and that they remain confident over the plans already drawn up.
“And the same goes for the Advertiser, we will not let this just fall by the wayside and will continue to push the case forward to bring a station back to Ilkeston.”
n The cabinet meeting where they will discuss the possible funding options for the station will be held at County Hall in Matlock at 10.30am on Tuesday, September 20.