A funicular railway in Stocksbridge, a solar energy farm in Goldthorpe and a sculpture trail in Whitby: What the Towns Fund is bringing to Yorkshire

A new funicular railway to the high street, a community-owned solar energy farm and a coastal sculpture trail designed by world-leading artists are among the eye-catching developments coming to some of the Yorkshire towns chosen for a controversial £3.6bn government fund.

One leading local businessman said the multi-million pound investment in his area for regeneration projects from the Towns Fund will help restore pride after years of under-investment.

And amid accusations that towns in marginal or Conservatives seats were more likely to be put on the shortlist of 101 areas allowed to bid, another leading local figure in West Yorkshire said their investment plans were still subjected to scrutiny and challenge from the government before funding was handed over.

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Stocksbridge high street. Local businessman Mark Dransfield says residents are "ashamed" of the area because it is full of takeaways. Pic: Chris Etchells

In total 16 towns in Yorkshire and the Humber were shortlisted by the Government in 2019 for the fund, set up to "transform their economic growth prospects with a focus on improved transport, broadband connectivity, skills and culture".

Nine were told how much they would be getting in last week's Budget and shared nearly £200m, with funding for each individual area varying from £17.1 to £25m.

In Stocksbridge home to the famous Samuel Fox steelworks which once created employment for almost all local families, the local Town Deal Board set out in its bid to Ministers how it had "endured decades of under-investment and been left behind in an economic sense, but also in terms of the opportunities available to our community".

Its most notable development paid for by the Towns Fund is a town centre funicular linking the high street with the Fox Valley shopping park, "serving a practical purpose and carrying bikes, walkers and shoppers, as well as becoming a great unique selling point for Stocksbridge".

Whitby and Scarborough were awarded a total of £37m from the Towns Fund and both are involved in creating a Wild Eye trial, a new tourism product using world leading artists and designers.

The funding will also help transform the high street by transforming part of it on Manchester Road into a 'community crossover hub', providing space for digital, creative and clean growth businesses to work together as well as a space for local people to learn the skills needed for jobs in growth sector areas.

And a wellbeing approach and hydrotherapy centre at Stocksbridge Leisure Centre is being created to improve physical and mental wellbeing.

Mark Dransfield, Managing Director of Dransfield Properties and co-chair of the Stocksbridge Towns Fund Board, said the town was a "wonderful area to live". He said the area boasted the best cycling in Europe, something he wanted to take advantage of by working with local pubs and hostelries to create a cycling tourism trail.

He said: "We want the best for our community. And what this has done for the first time in a long time, it's united everybody together, and we've got a purpose and people feel as though they're cared about and they're recognised and it's so important.

"We've started to deliver pride back into our communities now and it's important to continue that journey, it's so important for people to feel proud of where they live, and also have the facilities on their doorstep where they can go for coffee, they can go out to dine."

Similarly ambitious projects can be found in the other eight areas of Yorkshire which have been handed Towns Fund investment. But critics point out the funding being given to these areas represents only a fraction of the investment lost in the last decade as a result of austerity cuts.

In Goldthorpe, a former coal mining village, one of the elements of its Town Investment Plan is a community-owned solar power farm, which will provide electricity to be sold into local business and public buildings.

The plan, which is getting £23.1m in government investment, will also create new commercial space and address poor quality pre-1919 terraced housing in the heart of the town centre.

But Barnsley council said it still had a funding shortfall of £6.1m which it would aim to tackle at the next meeting of its Town Fund Board.

The city of Wakefield was given the maximum allocation of £25m and will focus on projects bringing about "economic vitality and socio-economic change where it is most needed in the city".

One of these is improving Bread Street and Little Westgate, where the connections to the nearby cathedral are blocked by "vacant and underused" 1960s retail units. The local proposal will see the lost views and connection to the cathedral restored.

Whitby and Scarborough were awarded a total of £37m from the Towns Fund and both are involved in creating a Wild Eye trial, a new tourism product using world leading artists and designers.

Whitby's will see a series of sculptures, wildlife viewing platforms and hides, each designed with ‘live stream’ cams and sounds of the wildlife "which can be seen, experienced and enjoyed within Whitby and the coast".

In Scarborough, civic and business leaders have drawn up plans for improvements to the town's cricket ground to help secure the future of first class cricket at the venue as well as Scarborough Fayre, a 'year-round programme of events and cultural regeneration, with an annual spectacular'.

In Morley, a market town on the edge of Leeds, the funding will help create a new skills campus at the historic New Pavilion building.

Gerald Jennings, the co-chair of the Morley Town Deal Board, said the £24.3m in capital funding from the Government was "a huge bonus for the town and the wider district".

Mr Jennings, who runs his own property consultancy and investment business, said: "It is one of those towns which has a lot of a lot of pride, a lot of ambition, but it hasn't necessarily had the funding needed in the past. And in many ways it's like any number of towns in Yorkshire and across the country.

"So I think it's hugely important for me Morley and for Leeds as part of the levelling up agenda. And when we think about some of the key issues around connectivity, around education and skills which is a key, health and wellbeing, it will make a real difference to Morley over the next five, ten years."