A £760m masterplan for thousands of North East jobs has been handed over to some of Whitehall’s most influential decision makers.
Businesses, councils and transport experts have signed off on a multi-million-pound plan aimed at transforming the region’s fortunes.
The ambitious document, put together by the North East local enterprise partnership, will bid for a share of the Government’s £2bn local growth fund, with North East officials expected to face a tough grilling over every aspect of the cash plan.
If successful, the partnership says it could pave the way for an 11% increase in employment by 2024, suggesting some 10,000 jobs a year could be created.
While some regional leaders have privately suggested the document maybe overly ambitious, the partnership says its wishlist of education, skills and infrastructure improvements will help grow the North East.
By 2016 alone nearly £50m of cash is requested by ministers, to go alongside cash already earmarked for the region.
Some £23m of local transport improvements are requested, including addressing traffic issues on the A185 and A19, work on the Lindisfarne Roundabout in South Tyneside and a Central Station Metro refurbishment.
Another £25m is asked for to pay for projects such as improvements to the A1 Scotswood Bridgehead, more work on the A19 near the Silverlink junction in North Tyneside and new funds to clear the way for roadworks behind Newcastle’s Central Station.
From 2016 onwards another £125m of funding is requested to help pay for the likes of a reopened Ashington, Blyth and Tyne railway, a new relief road for Durham City Centre, a link road for Newcastle Airport and Gateshead Town Centre regeneration.
Alongside this is a plan for a North East Development and Investment Fund which would pool Government cash, European funds and tax receipts from the enterprise zone to hand the region £245m over five years to major developments.
If the Government turns down the project it will be asked instead to approve individually many of the schemes which would have been funded from the new pot, including £34m for sites in Sunderland and on the banks of the River Tyne.
Also on the back-up list to be funded piece by piece if ministers don’t hand over a lump sum is £48m worth of local schemes such as a new convention centre and Whitley Bay regeneration.
The plan also commits the enterprise partnership to fund the design of a North East Schools Challenge, with at least £4.7m a year over six years from Government adding to funds paid out by an alliance of schools, businesses and councils.
The Strategic Economic Plan set to be handed over for approval has been pulled together by partnership chief executive Ed Twiddy, a former high ranking Treasury official.
Paul Woolston, chair of the partnership, said: “The North East Strategic Economic Plan sets out an ambitious vision for the area, but our recent economic performance tells us that it is entirely achievable. In recent years our businesses and people have outperformed national growth rates for output, productivity and employment. In just 12 months, nearly 20,000 additional jobs have been created.”
Lord Heseltine and Lord Shipley will advise cabinet ministers on which of the many national projects bidding for cash to back.
Since draft proposals were submitted to the Government in December, Greg Clark, Minister for Cities, has met with every one of the 39 local enterprise partnerships to advise on their proposals. He said: “This is a competitive process, and the Local Growth Fund is likely to be heavily oversubscribed.
“Only those proposals that can prove tangible evidence of economic gain will succeed. I am immensely looking forward to getting into the detail of their proposals in the coming months and negotiating deals that benefit every corner of England and the country as a whole.”