MINISTERS will today sign off on a £92m city deal set to transform Tyneside with 13,000 new jobs.
A package of measures will be approved by cities minister Greg Clark in order to kick-start job creation in Newcastle and Gateshead.
They include spending £92m on an accelerated development zone which will underpin regeneration in Newcastle’s East Pilgrim Street, the Science Central site next to St James’ Park and land around the Central Station, as well as continued investment in Gateshead Quays and Baltic Business Quarter.
This will see 600 construction jobs created and 1,500 permanent jobs within five years.
More importantly, the businesses rates produced by firms moving into those areas will be kept by the city for the next 25 years, in a first for England which means at least £400m of extra investment.
Today’s announcement represents a key stage in the coalition Government’s attempts to revive the North East economy, handing Newcastle the chance to grow faster than Whitehall spending rules would otherwise have allowed.
Other aspects of the city deal include £25m for new housing, with up to 15,000 new homes on brownfield sites.
There will also be a commitment from the Department for Transport to accept a new business case for improvements to the A1 Western Bypass, meaning work can be prioritised in 2015 rather than the decade-long delay which was facing one of Britain’s most congested roads.
Superfast broadband will also be rolled out across the city, in a bid to make Newcastle one of the UK’s leading wifi centres.
The Government and Newcastle City Council will also work together to secure a further £500m in private sector investment into the marine and offshore sector, with the potential to create 8,000 jobs across the North East.
Newcastle will also be given a say over how former regional development agency assets are used in the city.
Speaking ahead of the announcement, Newcastle Council leader Nick Forbes said: “This is an innovative and groundbreaking scheme in which we are given the financial flexibility to invest in our own future, and is a major vote of confidence in this city.
“While there a many parts of Government policy I disagree with they have here signalled a commitment to devolving significant powers to us and that is very welcome.”
The funding model announced today builds on plans first proposed by the Liberal Democrats under Lord Shipley, now advising the Government on city regeneration.
Lord Shipley said: “What we are seeing today is the Government deciding that it will hand Newcastle enhanced powers to control its own growth in a way which has not happened before.”
The Lib Dem peer added that the speed with which the decision had been finalised was a sign of how committed the coalition was to decentralising power.
Newcastle and Gateshead have promised to consider moves towards setting up a combined authority as part of the Government’s drive towards powerful “city regions”.
Cities Minister Greg Clark said the deal was “a fantastic step forward”.
“Newcastle and Gateshead have developed a very impressive set of proposals to regenerate the centre of the city,” he said.
“They know that by investing in regeneration they can attract jobs and firms into the city. But they’ve been prevented from now from accessing the money needed to do that.”
John Cridland, director general of the CBI, visiting Newcastle as the deal was finalised, said: “I congratulate Newcastle on having secured such an important deal with Government.
“The North East is already a great region to invest and grow a business. The new funding arrangements announced as part of the City Deal will now create an even stronger environment for growth.
“Newcastle is emerging as one of the most go-ahead and innovative cities for welcoming business investment, and I’m confident the private sector will respond to this opportunity.”
North East Chamber of Commerce president, John Mowbray, said: “Newcastle and Gateshead local authorities must be congratulated for this ambitious and innovative project that promises to bring investment, jobs and some vital transport and super-connected broadband infrastructure improvements to Tyneside.
“This announcement is great news for the construction sector, Tyneside’s marine and offshore industry and support for the offshore wind companies will contribute enormously to the region’s aims of becoming a hub for new and renewable energy development.”