Battling with the big cities

HARTLEPOOL and the rest of the Tees Valley can finally hold their own against major cities for the first time thanks to a Government announcement, says a regeneration expert.

News that the Tees Valley has clinched City Deal status has been welcomed by a senior official as “crucial to the economic wellbeing of the area.”

Stephen Catchpole, the managing director of Tees Valley Unlimited, said: “A City Deal will not make Tees Valley a city in the traditional sense of the word. However, crucially this status will put Tees Valley on an equal footing alongside the likes of Newcastle, Leeds and Manchester when it comes to working with Government to help shape the policy decisions that impact on our area.”

The Tees Valley – including Hartlepool – secured the City Deal which could see 27,000 jobs protected or created in the area in the next nine years. The winners will now get more devolved powers from Whitehall.

Campaigners hope the new powers will help the Tees Valley in areas including carbon capture; petrochemicals, and new renewable energy; and in making the Tees Valley the home to large waste-to-energy plants.

Mr Catchpole said: “Giving an area more control and autonomy over its future is as crucial to its economic wellbeing as attracting grants and financial incentives.

“That is why it is such great news for Tees Valley that the Government has backed our bid for City Deal status.”

He said increased autonomy was vitally important for Tees Valley, adding: “We are convinced that the best people to take major decisions on the area’s economic direction and destiny are those who live and work here.”

But Mr Catchpole said one vital area that the Tees Valley must improve on was exports.

Meanwhile, more good news could be on the way for the area.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles is inviting Enterprise Zones to apply for a share of a £59m fund to help ‘turn shovel ready sites into job ready sites’.

This fund will help Zones to put in place the infrastructure required to unlock sites so businesses can set up. This could mean links to local road networks or reconfiguring site layouts.

He said: “Economic growth is this Government’s biggest priority and Enterprise Zones are the engine room of that strategy.”