Communities and Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis arrives in County Durham this morning to witness firsthand the progress being made into the construction of Hitachi’s manufacturing facility.
The minister is in the North East as part of the Government’s historic Growth Deals announcement – a programme which will see more than £370m ploughed into transport, business and innovation across the region.
The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the business-led economic development organisation, has secured £289.3m to invest in Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and County Durham, including £111.7m in 2015-16, while Tees Valley Unlimited Local Enterprise Partnership, which covers Teesside, secured £90.3m including £22.9m next year. The grants come to a total of £379m.
Among the schemes to unfurl through the multi-million pound programme are plans for new business parks to encourage employers to locate in the North East, including space for firms in the Hitachi Rail supply chain to locate close to its facilities at Merchant Park in County Durham.
The factory in Newton Aycliffe is due to start making trains for the Great Western and East Coast lines from spring 2016, employing at least 730 workers.
The Communities and Local Government Minister will be at the Hitachi Site in Newton Aycliffe to meet Paul Woolston, Chair of North East LEP and Darren Cumner, plant manager for Hitachi Rail Europe, to discuss inward investment and supply chain development.
The growth deals were welcomed by Katja Hall, CBI deputy director-general, who said: “Businesses and local authorities have been working hard to develop their plans for growth and it’s great to see that hard work starting to bear fruit in this announcement.
“Giving funding to the people best placed to invest it will help unlock the potential of our towns and cities – but this cannot be a one-off.
“Growing our local economies requires bold thinking, big ideas and a commitment to stay the course. We need to stick with what’s working and see all political parties supporting these projects.”
Jonathan Walker, North East Chamber of Commerce head of member relations, also welcomed the news.
He said: "The Local Growth Fund announcement is excellent news.
"The North East Chamber of Commerce was one of a number of partners who worked closely with the Local Enterprise Partnership to produce a competitive strategic economic plan and it is very reassuring that the Government has recognised the ambition and focus on regional strengths included in it.
“Our members consistently talk about the need to raise attainment in our schools and hopefully the focus on schools in today’s announcement will help address that and cement links between the worlds of education and business.
“The emphasis on developing a skills improvement package, innovation growth and developing the infrastructure around key sites like Hitachi will help the North East reach its potential and deliver more for UK PLC.
“Our region has done exceptionally well in each round of the Regional Growth Fund, so it is really positive for us to secure such a good return in the Local Growth Fund.”