I try to avoid politics in this column and seek to address matters that affect the land, property and construction sectors served by my profession as a chartered surveyor.
This last week has been bittersweet for Sunderland. A few weeks ago The Journal reported that Sunderland local authority were holding back on committing to the proposed new Combined Authority until it secured Government agreement to investment in the proposed City Deal. This would see it being able to invest £25m in the A19 corridor around Nissan.
A few days later we read reports that Sunderland had reconsidered its position and agreed to support the proposed Combined Authority, provided there was a ‘fairness principle’ built in to ensure Newcastle does not dominate investment opportunities. Following on from that, The Journal reported last Wednesday that the Government has missed off the North East from a list of new combined authorities which are set to get Parliamentary go ahead this spring. It has decided to back plans by Sheffield, West Yorkshire and Liverpool to form combined authorities similar to that in Manchester but not the North East.
Last Friday, The Journal reported the excellent news that Sunderland has been named as fourth best small European city for foreign direct investment (FDI) – better than Cambridge,
Reading, York and Peterborough. It is also eighth top Northern European city for FDI strategy according to a study of the most promising investment locations in Europe, ranked above Sheffield and Cambridge. Well done to the city and its business investment team. I have a strong affinity to Sunderland where I have been involved in a number of activities to push forward economic growth over the years. They include valuing the Nissan factory during construction to help with the funding needed for its development; advising the Tyne & Wear Development Corporation on its strategy for development within Sunderland; acting as an independent director on the Sunderland arc Board; being co-author of the Economic Strategy for Sunderland City; advising on the location of the new Enterprise Zones and acting for businesses in Sunderland and Washington.
I am proud to have been invited to act as an ambassador for the city and do what I can to promote its future. The proposed City Deal and the funding Sunderland is seeking is very important to the development of land around the A19 to secure even more success in the attraction of new industries. I have said before we must do all we can to increase demand and attract new industries and investment.
Equally, the Combined Authority, the bid for European Funding, and the preparation of the North East Strategic Economic Plan are important for the North East, including Sunderland. The Combined Authority is to carry out a very important function, that of the collaboration of the seven councils Northumberland through to Durham on jobs, infrastructure and inward investment.
We need to all pull together to ensure we ‘punch above our weight’, to emulate Sunderland and attract more investors and businesses. I wish Sunderland well in its efforts to extract the best deal from Government to secure the future of its City Deal but not at the expense of the well-being of the North East. Finally, good luck to Sunderland in the League Cup Final at Wembley on Saturday.
A win will make the whole region smile!
:: Kevan Carrick is a partner at JK Property Consultants LLP