MPs applaud our big campaign

THE successful Go For Jobs campaign is to be praised in the Houses of Parliament after a two- year battle between the North- East and the Highways Agency.

THE successful Go For Jobs campaign is to be praised in the Houses of Parliament after a two- year battle between the North- East and the Highways Agency.

In 2005 The Journal revealed how transport bosses at the Highways Agency were blocking developments thought to increase traffic on congested parts of the A1 and A19.

The agency was using powers known as Article 14 orders to prevent new businesses and homes along busy routes.

The Chamber of Commerce joined forces with The Journal to campaign against the Article 14 notices which were estimated to have put 10,000 jobs at risk. Two years later none of the eight Article 14 notices issued since the campaign started are in place, and the agency is likely to lose its controversial powers.

And while the fight for better transport on our roads and railways continues, the region’s top MPs have promised to raise the success in the corridors of Westminster.

Today an Early Day Motion will be put down urging MPs to recognise the hard work done by North-East campaigners.

Tyne Bridge MP David Clelland, who from the start has backed calls for the agency to lift its banning orders, will today use the parliamentary process to show fellow MPs what the region has achieved. Mr Clelland said: "It has certainly been a high-profile campaign. It has alerted the people of the region to resolving our transport infrastructure problems and it has also brought it to the attention of Government ministers."

Editor of The Journal Brian Aitken said: "We are proud of what the Go For Jobs campaign has achieved but the fight for drastic improvements to the North’s transport infrastructure must go on."

One of the biggest Go For Jobs successes came after the Highways Agency blocked plans by Northern Rock to open a £60m office in Sunderland in February 2006. The Journal’s call to lift the ban was eventually taken to then Transport Minister Stephen Ladyman, who bowed to pressure to end the delay.

Worst hit by the agency’s blocking powers were businesses investing in Gateshead’s Team Valley. Two sites on the business park were hit with banning orders and many more business leaders told The Journal they had been warned any plans submitted would be blocked.

But by November 2006 the agency started negotiations with Team Valley businesses to discuss the way forward.

That month Go For Jobs was awarded Campaign of the Year in the 2006 Chamber Awards.

The Government has now started a three- month consultation on Highways Agency powers, which could spell the end for its blocking orders.

North-East Chamber of Commerce president Maggie Pavlou said Go For Jobs was an example of what can achieved when the region works together. She said: "The success of Go For Jobs will have a profound impact on the future growth of the North-East economy.

"It shows the importance and influence of bringing the region’s premier business organisation together with the region’s premier business newspaper."

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Timeline

:: November 17, 2005

The Journal launches the Go For Jobs campaign, along with the North-East Chamber of Commerce and the Evening Gazette on Teesside. Transport Secretary Alistair Darling defends Article 14 orders. However, statistics from his own department show North- East roads are the worst in the country.

:: December 9

The House of Commons Transport Committee announces a probe into the work of the Highways Agency.

:: December 20

Transport Minister Stephen Ladyman promises to review Article 14 powers after meeting Tyne Bridge MP David Clelland.

:: January 20, 2006

North-East Chamber of Commerce holds out hopes for a more helpful attitude from the Highways Agency after showdown talks.

:: February 8

Gateshead Council is forced to postpone a decision on re- development of the disused Jockey factory on Team Valley because of Highways Agency complaints about traffic levels.

:: February 9

Dismay as Sunderland councillors are prevented from giving planning permission to Northern Rock’s proposed office complex in Rainton Bridge – expected to create 2,500 jobs – because of an Article 14 notice.

:: May 2006

Team Valley Article 14s lifted

:: July 2006

HA listens to the North-East and lifts Rainton Bridge Article 14 notice.

:: November 2006

More than 12,000 jobs in the North-East have been secured thanks to the Go For Jobs campaign.

:: March 2007

North-East MPs meet Highways Agency bosses to demand change.

:: July 2007

Roads bosses could be stopped from using controversial orders to block developments in the North- East, The Journal reveals.

:: November 2007

Go For Jobs campaign to be congratulated in Parliament.

Battle for a better road network ‘must continue’

THE fight to improve the North-East’s transport network to boost safety and prosperity must continue, MPs have vowed.

MPs from across the political spectrum have praised the Go for Jobs campaign and pledged to fight on to improve crucial routes such as the A1 Western Bypass and dualling the A1 through Northumberland.

The calls for action from the Government come in the wake of Chancellor Alistair Darling snubbing crucial improvements to the A1 in the Government’s comprehensive spending review in October.

Mr Darling promised additional cash for transport, but handed money to widen the M1 and M6 and a £5bn cheque for the Crossrail project, which will transform London train services.

The Government also vowed to press ahead with road pricing as it emerged no upgrades are likely on the A1 Western Bypass until 2015.

And a key report on the route’s future may not be published for another two years by the Highways Agency.

Hexham MP Peter Atkinson said the region must continue to campaign to improve its transport infrastructure.

"Looking at the budget settlement for the roads, it doesn’t look like there is much going to be left to come up to the North," said the Conservative MP.

Tyne Bridge MP David Clelland said there was an "urgency" with regard to the major road network and added: "We are certainly taking this issue up with ministers."

Their promise to fight on was backed by regional development boss Margaret Fay.

She said: "When One NorthEast takes strategic responsibility for preparing the new Integrated Regional Strategy, one of our first actions will be a hard-headed assessment of the region’s transport infrastructure, examining our international links, links between the region and London, Scotland and the west of the country and links within our region."

Berwick MP Alan Beith said the A1 needed upgrading to improve safety and complete the basic national road network.

And he hit out at a lack of Government funding, questioning why schemes to improve the Adderstone section of the route and between Morpeth and Felton were shelved.

"We should be making a start on those two schemes and then have a programme to complete the A1. It is the missing link in the national road network," said the Liberal Democrat.

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Agency may lose power to block schemes

ROAD bosses may lose the power to block developments using controversial orders under a wide-ranging overhaul of regional government.

Earlier this year, the Government unveiled a shake-up that could result in the Highways Agency losing its ability to use Article 14 notices to refuse or delay schemes in key growth areas along the A1 and A19.

Ministers pledged to ensure the work of a host of central agencies "informs, complements, and contributes" to regional priorities from highways, environment, homes, skills and jobs.

In the last 12 months, the region has seen all the proposed sites at one time blocked by the agency finally get the go-ahead, and highways bosses have been warned that they could be barred from using its blocking powers.

The promise was contained in the Government’s sub-national review, which also backed axing the unelected regional assembly and handing town halls more powers when it was published in the summer.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), which was involved in drawing up the review, said it could not say whether the Highways Agency would still have the power to impose the notices.

Any changes depend on the outcome of a three-month consultation starting later this year before legislation to establish the proposed system that could start its Parliamentary passage early next year.

But highways chiefs would have to work with planners to provide employment sites on the A1 Western Bypass if that was a regional priority, added a DCLG spokesman.

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