David Cameron has announced a massive programme of investment for the North East including new business parks, transport improvements and a campaign to ensure the region’s schools match the best in the country.
Almost £400m has been awarded to the region from the Government’s flagship Local Growth Fund, which is designed to create jobs and ensure every part of the country shares in economic growth.
The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the business-led economic development organisation, agreed a with the Government which will see £289.3m invested in Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and County Durham, including £111.7m in 2015-16.
And Tees Valley Local Enterprise Partnership, which covers Teeside, secured £90.3m including £22.9m next year.
The grants come to a total of £379m. Key projects include:
• New business parks to encourage employers to locate in the North East, including space for firms in the Hitachi Rail supply chain to locate close to its facilities at Merchant Park in County Durham;
• Filling in the site of the former Swans Hunter shipyard in Wallsend to create land for commercial use;
• A series of transport schemes including a direct link from Newcastle Central station to the Stephenson Quarter regeneration site, and refurbishment of Newcastle Central Metro Station;
• A single development and investment fund, bringing together cash from a range of sources, which can be used to encourage private sector investment in the region as well as directly supporting projects;
Ministers also pledged to help the North East LEP to work with school heads to raise attainment and young people’s prospects across the region - to match those of the highest performing region in the country.
The schools project will aim to abolish illiteracy and innumeracy at primary school level and increase the number of young people going to top universities and advanced apprenticeships.
Meanwhile, projects to improve skills in the Teeside area include a new Oil and Gas Academy at Redcar and Cleveland College, to provide specialist training in this growing sector of the economy.
Ministers are today making announcements about grants across the country but the North East was one of the big winners. Of 39 LEPs across the country, the North East LEP won the third-highest grant for 2015-16, after London and Greater Manchester.
The Prime Minister said: “This historic deal means real change for the North East, with plans to attract new business to the area, drive innovation and invest in skills in key sectors such as advanced manufacturing and low carbon energy technologies. It will help ensure young people in the region have the skills they need to get on and help ensure the North East has the workforce it needs to prosper.
“By trusting local people, backing business and investing in infrastructure, skills and housing, we can create thousands of new jobs. And that means more economic security, peace of mind and a brighter future for hardworking people across the North East.”
Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister said: “The North East Growth Deal will create thousands of jobs, provide incredible new training opportunities for young people, and improve transport links across the region for people and their families; building a stronger economy and a fairer society.”
Paul Woolston, Chair of the North East LEP, said: “Our economic plan ‘more and better jobs’ sets an ambitious vision for the North East, to transform the economy and create more and better jobs. We are delighted that government is supporting our proposals with such a significant investment.
“Our £289.3m Growth Deal endorses our approach providing investment for innovation, skills, business support, transport, developing our economic assets and supporting inclusive growth. It also sets out a clear commitment to work closely with us to bring forward proposals around improving educational attainment and a new investment fund.
“The deal will act as catalyst to lever in substantial private and public investment, creating thousands of jobs and providing sustainable and long term growth. It marks the beginning of an exciting journey for the North East, and I’m looking forward to working with our partners and Government to make it happen.”
Sandy Anderson, chair of the Tees Valley LEP, said: “We have agreed a Growth Deal with government that will bring over £90m additional funding to our area over the next 4-5 years to invest in key transport, infrastructure, skills and business support projects that will lead to the creation of a significant number of additional jobs.”
Liberal Democrat MP for Berwick Sir Alan Beith said: “This is a fantastic deal for the North East which will bring much-needed jobs and training opportunities to the region and strengthen our economy. To get this level of investment into our area is a real achievement and I will be working with businesses in North Northumberland to get as much benefit as possible for our area from these funding initiatives.”
The Growth Fund package includes:
• Merchant Park 2 – to support inward investment and supply chain development at the Hitachi Rail plant in Newton Aycliffe.
• A North East Development and Infrastructure Fund to support and drive innovation at Newcastle Life Sciences Incubation Hub, NETPark in County Durham, the Low Carbon Energy Centre at Newcastle Science Central, Sunderland Enterprise and Innovation Hub and the Centre for Innovation in Formulation.
• A skills improvement package with projects to increase skills levels in key sectors at Tyne Met College, South Tyneside College, Port of Blyth Offshore and Wind Energy Training Facility, Newcastle College Group’s Low Carbon Tech Centre and East Durham College.
• Swans Wet Berth Infill – to create development land with quay frontage within the Swan Hunter site to increase the availability of commercial land available for priority sectors.
• Rural Growth Network infrastructure – a project to plug infrastructure gaps in key rural market towns.
• A transport improvement programme with nine strategic transport projects including the A189/A191 Haddricks Mill in Newcastle, refurbishment of Newcastle Central Metro Station, links between Central Station and the Stephenson Quarter, the A191 junctions (Coach Lane and Tyne View Park) in North Tyneside and
the A1 corridor at Scotswood Bridgehead.