Multi-million pound boost for local firms

Peter Stephenson pictured at Able House.
Peter Stephenson pictured at Able House.

SCORES of jobs and millions of pounds are on the way to Hartlepool.

The town has won a significant share of round two of the Regional Growth Fund (RGF), the Government scheme which aims to give the economy a shot-in-the-arm.

Town firm Able received £2.2m backing towards a £16m scheme to develop a dry dock.

Company founder and executive chairman Peter Stephenson said the news was “a welcome recognition from the Government that Able Seaton Port can make a major contribution to the regional and national economy.”

Transport Minister Theresa Villiers welcomed Able’s plans, and said: “Reopening the dry dock will allow Able UK to compete for projects in ship repair, offshore wind, ship and rig decommissioning, recycling and assembly.”

And while she said the scheme would create more than 50 jobs, Mr Stephenson had even better news.

He said more than 230 direct jobs could be created in a £130m boost for the regional economy. He added: “Over the years we have proved that Able Seaton Port is able to provide world-class services for offshore decommissioning and maintenance and, of course, ship recycling.

“We have always recognised that, in order to exploit its full potential we needed to install new permanent dock gates which will greatly enhance our ability to move from wet to dry dock status and provide the flexibility our customers require”

Seal Sands-based Fine Industries has won £1.8m of RGF funding towards a planned £14m development, which could eventually mean 56 more workers in the next three years.

Chief executive Keith Hanson said: “We applied for a grant to attract further inward investment.”

As well as those two firms, other successful local bidders include Heerema Hartlepool, Huntsman Tioxide and PD Ports.

Heerema’s vice president in business development and sales, Nick Routledge, said: “We are very excited about it. It should support development in the Hartlepool area.”

He said details on the scheme could not be given yet as the firm goes through due diligence, but he said it would boost Heerema’s bid to be a major player in the renewable energy sector.

But he added: “It is related to renewables and if everything goes through, it should support our plans. We will go through the due diligence process and it should be possible to create jobs.”

Stephen Catchpole, managing director at Tees Valley Unlimited which is leading the area’s regeneration, said: “This is incredibly positive news for the Tees Valley and yet another clear indication from the Government that we are on track and moving in the right direction.”

Nationally, £950m will be given to 119 projects throughout the country, to support nearly £6bn of private investment.

The Government has approved £93m of RGF schemes in the North- East. The 50 projects will create or safeguard 25,500 jobs.

That investment includes nearly £40m for 15 projects in the Tees Valley, creating 2,700 new jobs.

The successful Tees Valley applications are expected to attract just under £200m in private sector investment.

Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond said: “It is fantastic news. A lot of hard work has gone in over the last few months.”

Other successful bidders included the North East Process Industry Cluster which got the go-ahead to develop a three-year pilot programme which gives firms the sales and mentor backing they need.

In County Durham, Peterlee-based firms TRW Systems and AKS Precision Ball Europe have also had bids approved.