Plymouth’s waterfront and port could play a “leading role” in the city’s plans to level up, the city’s council has said.

Plymouth is pitching for £19.9m of investment under the government’s Levelling Up Fund to unlock a £43.5m package of transformational infrastructure projects.

Three key projects are being put forward to drive change by making the most of the opportunities made available through the area’s freeport status, the local authority said. The projects include:

  • a freeport innovation centre, housing high-value businesses, innovation and start-ups;
  • upgrading port infrastructure to meet the export demand created by the freeport, supporting business growth, high-value jobs and international trade;
  • a transformed waterfront by repurposing derelict buildings and providing an attractive place to invest, work and play.

The bid features plans for a 2,400m2 innovation centre at Oceansgate; a new mobility hub including electric charging facilities for cars and bikes; and spaces reserved for car club users to ensure the operation of the centre is carbon net zero.

The centre will be in the recently-designated freeport tax site at South Yard and will provide a focal point for technological advances in the marine and defence arena. The council estimates it will create 211 direct jobs, paying an average £31,700 – higher than the average wage for the area of £25,200. The aim is that 10% of the new jobs will be taken by people who are currently unemployed or inactive.

Proposals have also been put forward to improve infrastructure at Millbay to increase capacity for ferry passenger and freight. Improvements include more border control booths and better traffic management to allow swifter boarding and disembarking. A new passenger boarding bridge and modernising the terminal building are also part of the bid.

Other plans include investment and upgrades to Tinside to ensure the 1930s lido can continue to operate safely. Improvements to Tinside Cove buildings to the east of the pool are part of the pitch, with more facilities such as toilets, showers, lockers and a café within the unused buildings to attract more visitors.

Council leader Richard Bingley said the projects had been “carefully selected” as schemes with the potential to make the biggest difference to the city’s economy.

“Improvements to the port, for instance, have the potential to have a huge knock-on effect – encouraging more hauliers to consider Millbay as an option, which creates massive opportunity for our businesses and residents,” he said. “We are also keen to ensure the next generation of workers have the skills they need to be part of the city’s success story and to have access to these better jobs and better pay.”

Luke Pollard, MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, who has been involved in the bid since the start, added: “I wanted a bold and innovative levelling up bid and that is what, after much teamwork, we have submitted. This bid builds on our strengths as a city and will help create new jobs and grow the skills we need to succeed.”