Plans for a conference centre that would bring a massive boost to the North East economy have not been abandoned, despite a blow of missing out on Government funding.
The North East International Convention Centre (NEICC) planned for the Gateshead Quays was expected to feed £26m-a-year into the regional economy, but a bid for £19.5m to the Government’s Local Growth Fund was rejected.
The Newcastle Gateshead Initiative, which is leading the business case for the centre alongside Gateshead and Newcastle Councils and The Sage Gateshead, said the response was “disappointing” but said insisted it would not give up on ambitious project.
But one Gateshead MP has described the decision not to provide funding as a “hammer blow” for the region.
Sarah Stewart, chief executive at Newcastle Gateshead Initiative, said: “We are obviously very disappointed that the NEICC bid did not receive support and would like to thank all our partners who worked so hard to develop the bid within a very tight timescale.
“We’re currently awaiting feedback on the reasons for the decision from Department for Business Innovation and Skills, via the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.
“Meanwhile, we’re keen to maintain momentum and continue to finalise the development plans with a view to ensuring the NEICC is truly ‘shovel ready’ should further funding opportunities be identified.”
The centre, planned for The Sage Gateshead’s south car park, would have brought 75 extra conferences and 60 extra music events to the region each year, as well as creating hundreds of jobs.
Dave Anderson, Labour MP for Blaydon, said the project’s failure would represent a missed opportunity for the North East.
He said: “Yet another hammer blow for our region. The potential of a conference centre is massive in our part of the world as has been shown when The Sage has been used as a conference venue.
“The hotel trade has stepped up to the mark and we could have built a sector to rival those that are flourishing in Manchester and Liverpool. Under the last Government we were well on the way to seeing this dream become reality but the paltry crumbs that are now on offer via the Regional Growth Fund are simply inadequate for the needs of regions like ours.
“Yet again we are being let down by the anti-North East bias of the Coalition Government.”
The plans’ first setback came with the closure of regional development agency One North East and then by the scrapping of Tyneside development company 1NG.
Gateshead Council also bid unsuccessfully for the project in the Government’s Regional Growth Fund.
In 2012, a downgraded vision of the original £80m centre was revealed.
It was hoped the business case would be underpinned with Arts Council money but a backer has yet to be found for the rest of the cash.