£370m Local Growth Fund will open up North East opportunities, says minister

Communities and Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis said the North East is an important part of the British economy

Council Leader Nick Forbes with Brandon Lewis (right), Minister for Communities and Local Government and Paul Woolston, Chair of the NELEP
Council Leader Nick Forbes with Brandon Lewis (right), Minister for Communities and Local Government and Paul Woolston, Chair of the NELEP

A balance of industries and stronger transport links can transform the North East into a key region for the British economy, a minister has said.

Brandon Lewis, Communities and Local Government Minister, was in the region as the Government announced more than £370m funding as part of the Local Growth Deal.

The cash is expected to create more than 4,000 jobs by supporting business and improving the region’s transport infrastructure.

Mr Lewis, who visited the Hitachi site in Newton Aycliffe and Sunderland University as well as Newcastle city centre, said: “This is a really big sum of money and it is going to open up some big opportunities.

“It has been designed by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP) and I think that it is designed locally is something which is really important about the Growth Deals.”

He added: “The Government has been very focused on making sure that growth is spread around the country and the North East has some huge opportunities, with the software, renewable energy and high-tech engineering industries here. When you see the investment that Hitachi is making, you realise how big the opportunities are.

Council Leader Nick Forbes talks to Brandon Lewis, Minister for Communities and Local Government above the Stephenson Quarter

“There is a good balance of trade here and the North East absolutely is an important part of the British economy.”

As previously reported by the Journal, the money will be used for a string of key projects.

Some of the cash will fund a direct link from Newcastle Central station to the Stephenson Quarter regeneration site and refurbishment of Newcastle Central Metro Station. Durham City will also benefit from £6.3m towards the proposed Western Relief Road.

Leader of Newcastle City Council, Coun Nick Forbes, who has responsibility for transport issues on the NELEP board, said: “North East councils have presented a compelling case to Government for greater transport investment which is reflected in today’s announcement.

“It underlines the benefits of working together in the interests of the wider region. This investment is an encouraging start towards our goal of improving our strategic transport network, and improving connectivity across our region.”

The cash will also see new business parks created, including space for firms in the Hitachi Rail supply chain at Merchant Park in County Durham and money to develop land at the former Swans Hunter shipyard, in Wallsend.

Ongoing work at the Stephenson Quarter in Newcastle
Ongoing work at the Stephenson Quarter in Newcastle

The North East Technology Park (NETPark), in County Durham, is to have an £8m expansion and £7.4m was handed to the Centre for Process Innovation’s proposed £14.4m Centre for Innovation in Formulation.

Coun Neil Foster, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “The funding announcements are fantastic news for the residents and businesses of Country Durham which will make a hugely positive difference to job prospects and the overall economy.”

He added: “In NETPark, County Durham already boasts a leading science, engineering and technology park. The expansion is expected to generate further investment of over £200m in the next ten years, creating 2,400 high value jobs.

“The proposed relief road around Durham City will reduce traffic resulting in quicker and easier journeys for hundreds of people every day. Less traffic passing through the city will also make it easier for those travelling to it, boosting both business and tourism and enhancing the city further as the economic powerhouse of the county.

“We are delighted that the strong case we put forward for County Durham as a place to invest in for the future has been backed by the Government and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.”


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