Well, 2019 has certainly got off to a flying start!
After a long two-year campaign, my proposal to take our airport back into public ownership was approved last week.
This was the number one election pledge I made to the people of the Tees Valley, and I’m over the moon that we’ve been able to secure our airport’s future for generations to come.
As part of the deal, we’ve also acquired 819 acres of surrounding land which will enable a huge amount of commercial development.
Already we have seen proposals for a heliport to serve the £3.2billion Dogger Bank Wind Farm, and new aircraft hangar for private jets. I imagine there will be many more opportunities ahead.
Last week, we also approved a wider £588million Investment Plan for the Tees Valley. I want to ensure each and every borough that makes up our region gets a fair an equal share. As I promised at the election, I will make sure no town is left behind.
Over the next few years, we are funding projects in Hartlepool to the tune of £42million. This is on top of the £20million we’ve invested in the town since I was elected.
This new allocation will see us completely regenerate Hartlepool Waterfront with new restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops around the Marina.
Another £10million has been set aside to make those smaller but equally important changes across the town.
I’ll be working with Hartlepool Borough Council to ensure this money is spent wisely and makes as much impact on local people as possible.
Other schemes being brought forward include the much-needed Elwick bypass, and work on phase two of the Church Street redevelopment plans. This scheme will create the biggest film studios outside London, making Hartlepool a creative powerhouse.
We also agreed a major deal to acquire more than half of all developable land at the South Tees Development Corporation site in Redcar.
As we start to create jobs on that site this year, I want to ensure every part of the Tees Valley has access to the opportunities.
That’s why we’re committing almost £260million to improve transport in every corner of the Tees Valley, making it easier, faster and safer than ever to get around.
We’re looking at making improvements at Hartlepool railway station as part of this.
Importantly, we’re investing £55million into education and skills. As we leave the European Union and bring an end to unlimited, unskilled migration, I want to ensure our young people are equipped with the skills they need to fill local jobs.
For me, local workers must always come first – and they will.
It’s been a momentous month, but the approval of our Investment Plan did not signal the end of the road – it marked the start of our journey.
The start of the journey to transform Hartlepool. The start of the journey for a thriving international airport that we can all take great pride in. And the start of the journey to get people in Hartlepool and beyond into good quality jobs, to improve their lives, and those of their families, forever.