A MASSIVE £4.8 million initiative is being launched to stimulate economic growth and jobs in Keighley. The sweeping programme will help regenerate some of the town's most deprived areas. Euro cash totalling £2.4m, which will be match-funded through various sources, has been secured. Support, education and skills will be provided to unemployed people, raising their aspirations and helping them into work. And there will be grants for new businesses and to help existing ones grow.
The so-called Keighley Community Led Local Development (CLLD) programme covers the town's Central, East and West wards.
Twelve projects are being commissioned as part of the venture, and groups and organisations interested in delivering the activities are being invited to a launch event next week. Further information about the projects and the application process will be outlined.
There will then be a series of drop-in sessions at venues across the wards in the coming weeks, so residents and business owners can discover more about how they may be supported by the programme.
Leading the initiative is Airedale Enterprise Services, whose chief executive officer Wendy Spencer said an action group had worked for three years on preparing a strategy to bid for European Structural Investment Fund cash.
"We were successful in securing the funds and I am delighted that we are now in a position to launch the programme," she said.
"It's hugely exciting.
"The aim is to help regenerate Keighley, getting the long-term unemployed in particular back into work and supporting new start-up businesses and existing ones. We'll work closely with employers to help address the skills they need.
"It's a locally-led programme and we want locally-led organisations to deliver it. The money will stay in Keighley.
"We're looking for an October start, once commissioning is complete, and the programme runs until 2022."
Activities will include improving low-level skills amongst young people and adults, which with match funding will total £500,000 – it will include employability, ICT, personal development and communication skills.
There will also be support for people to enter employment through measures such as training, work tasters and job clubs.
Among those who helped draw-up the strategy as part of the action group was Steve Seymour, manager of Keighley's Airedale Shopping Centre.
He said: "Having been involved virtually from the start of this initiative, it was great news when we were told we had been successful in securing the European funding. A lot of work had gone into identifying key areas and projects to address the various issues on employment, education and the barriers to improving these and supporting communities and individuals.
"Now that we have the funding and are well on the way to having completed the raft of paperwork and policies, the real work will start following the launch and we can begin to make a difference and see the success of the initiative."
The programme is welcomed by Keighley MP John Grogan.
He said: "I applaud the initiative, which aims to give those from the least well-off communities in Keighley the hand up they might need to get a job or start a new business.
"It is about giving everybody in our town the chance to better themselves and their families."
The launch event takes place at Central Hall, Keighley, next Thursday (June 7), from 9.30am to 12.30pm.
It is primarily for groups or organisations interested in delivering a project.
The drop-in sessions for residents and businesses wanting to learn more about the programme are at Laycock Village Hall, Laycock Lane, on June 13, 1pm to 3pm; Foster Gardens Community Centre, Broster Avenue, Keighley, on June 14, 9.30am to 11.30am; Highfield Community Centre, Drewry Road, Keighley, on June 19, 1pm to 3pm; Sue Belcher Community Centre, Bracken Bank Avenue, Keighley, on June 21, 1pm to 3pm; Bangladeshi Centre, Surma Building, Kensington Street, Keighley, on June 27, 1pm to 3pm; Sangat Community Centre, Marlborough Street, Keighley, on July 4, 9.30am to 11.30am, and Hainworth Wood Community Centre, Hainworth Wood Road, Keighley, on July 5, 1pm to 3pm.
For further information about the drop-in sessions or to register interest in attending, contact Lynne Henry on 01535 607775.
More details can also be found at keighleyclld.org.uk.