Alan Wright - Let’s hope we’ve learned from history

I was at a meeting at the home of Middlesbrough Football Club last week and it set off a few memories.

Appropriately for football, they were mainly of missed chances for the Boro and a late winner for Hartlepool.

The area around the Riverside Stadium is still looking pretty bare, despite the addition of the striking new Temenos metal artwork which looks amazing with a background of the Transporter Bridge.

The new Middlesbrough College also dominates the skyline, but what’s more striking is what is not there – and why.

Let me turn back to the days of the old Teesside Development Corporation which was charged in the Eighties to regenerate large chunks of Teesside and Hartlepool.

You’ll note my separate distinctions – my hackles still rise when a national news report tells us that we Hartlepudlians live on Teesside.

We don’t – we live in Hartlepool, but, anyway, back to the plot.

The original plan was that the Middlesbrough ground would be the centre piece of a huge development which would include waterside leisure areas, hotels, homes, offices – you name it.

The fly in the ointment was a long-running row between the then Redcar and Middlesbrough Councils which revolved, if my memory serves, about the siting of a supermarket near the border between the two authorities.

At the same time as this was happening, Hartlepool was also making a major bid for development of its then wasteland of old docks which had lain idle since the rapid decline of our shipbuilding industries.

I was presenting the daily current affairs programme for the BBC locally at the time and saw the rumblings and rows at close quarters.

The huge amounts of money were time limited and the message was clear for Teesside that the scrapping had to stop if serious money was going to go into the Middlehaven site next to the planned new Boro ground.

Amazingly, the rowing didn’t stop, and the huge development which is now Hartlepool Marina was pretty much the result.

Fast forward to the present day, and we mustn’t make the same mistake again.

As you will have heard, a huge amount of public money is coming to our area soon through the Local Enterprise Partnership.

It’s going to be spent in the patch now occasionally known as the Tees Valley which includes us, along with the other Teesside towns.

What we mustn’t do is have a repeat of that family feud.

If we get the advantage of that big investment, it will benefit our whole area – local people will be happy to travel for work in Middlesbrough or Stockton, and, you would hope, vice versa.

There are some very good signs of our traditional skills being on the rise, and our decision makers owe it the people who live here to get it spot on.