The announcement of a City Deal for Sunderland & South Tyneside, with £5m for an Advanced Automotive Park next to Nissan on the A19, is very welcome and adds to the foundations we need to grow the region’s economy.
In addition, £80m was promised towards a new bridge over the River Wear and the development of the Vaux site in Sunderland centre. Both projects deserve to be progressed without further delay.
The new bridge will form a new strategic road link from the port and city centre to the A19 from the north at Wessington Way and from the south through Ryhope, where the first phase of the new road is already built.
The development of the Vaux site will create a centre for commerce, retail and leisure, and bring a new vibrancy and vitality, something that has been lacking for many years as a result of the development of Washington as a new town and Doxford as an out-of-town business park.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announcing the City Deal said that now “everyone is pointing in the same direction”. A declared wish stated in this column on many occasions.
We need this collaboration and stability if we are going to succeed in delivering the North East Strategic Economic Plan with the support of the European Infrastructure Fund, and bids for both are going before government for a decision.
This access to further public sector funding, in addition to the Growing Places Fund and the Regional Growth Fund, operated through the North East Local Enterprise Partnership Investment Fund will underpin efforts to attract private sector funding.
These are competitive bids which need to persuade the government that the North East can provide a “bigger bang for its buck” than other regions. I understand that the decisions for both bids should be made by the end of next month.
Linked to this will be the governance of a combined authority.
The bid for this is now also successfully proceeding through Parliament, and once all are in place this region should then have its foundation for economic growth formed – well, almost.
We still lack a credible marketing approach for the region.
As a region we are competing against all other regions in the UK. An example of what we are up against is the recent marketing push by Greater Manchester.
This pulls together all of the strategic sites available in that area, which an inward investor can see at a glance, and offers a single point of contact for enquiries. We also have strong competition from Scotland, which has fiscal and maybe other powers that will put this region in the shadow.
The North East Combined Authority will have this responsibility for marketing, and while we have some good Economic Development departments in each of the seven local councils that do collaborate, this is not enough.
There are many of us in the private sector, through groups like G9 and Developing Consensus, who wish to see a much stronger, cohesive and effective marketing plan for the North East than is currently being proposed. Going forward, it is the one weakness in our economic foundations.
:: Kevan Carrick is a partner at JK Property Consultants LLP, policy spokesman for RICS North East, a member of the RICS Dispute Resolution Panel and chairman of Northern Dispute Resolution