Millions more for Hartlepool?

Stephen Catchpole with the Enterprise Zone map
Stephen Catchpole with the Enterprise Zone map

A REGENERATION chief is hopeful that Hartlepool companies can win a share of a £1bn pot of cash.

 An unexpected third round of the Regional Growth Fund (RGF) looks set to be on the way next month, Business Mail has learned.

 Stephen Catchpole, managing director of regeneration agency Tees Valley Unlimited (TVU), said Hartlepool had won a major share of the North-East’s £40m allocation in round two of RGF and there was no reason why the success could not be repeated.

 Today, he told Business Mail: “We will be hoping to emulate our earlier successes.”

 Within days, details of a new £1bn shot-in-the-arm for British industry are expected to be revealed in full. RGF is the scheme which aims to help growth and jobs in industry by making the money available for investment.

 Mr Catchpole said: “We understand that Round 3 opens in February and closes in June and we assume it will be the same criteria.”

 He revealed how TVU could even put a bid in itself, to try to win a pot of cash which it could then distribute to help smaller firms in the Tees Valley.

 “We could bid in our own name for funding to help SMEs, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). We would be keen to do that and to help them directly.”

 Hartlepool did hugely well in Round 2 of RGF. Town firm Able received £2.2m backing towards a £16m scheme to develop a dry dock. Bosses claim it could eventually lead to 230 direct jobs.

 Seal Sands-based Fine Industries won £1.8m towards a planned £14m development, which could eventually mean 56 more workers within three years.

 Other successful local bidders included Heerema Hartlepool, Huntsman Tioxide and PD Ports.

 Mr Catchpole said: “We would be very keen to put our bid forward to make sure we put early-start businesses in, and see some real success stories.”

 But RGF was only one area in which the Tees Valley could enjoy a hugely prosperous 2012, said the TVU supremo.

 He said significant moves could be made this year on the planned Tees Valley Enterprise Zone.

 Hartlepool has secured a 33 per cent share of the Tees Valley-wide Enterprise Zone, potentially creating up to 15,000 jobs. The Queens Meadow, Port Estates, and Oakesway areas of town are all included in the 12-site zone.

 Mr Catchpole said: “We are still doing a lot of work in the background from a planning point of view.”

 He said the zones could “go live” in April and added: “In the future, we want to see companies locate in the zones, and in the longer term we want to see income coming back from the Enterprise Zones. That way, we can energise the economy.”

 Interest is already mounting from firms which could invest in the sites, especially in the bigger zone areas which attracted enhanced capital allowances, he added.

 Mr Catchpole said TVU was also waiting to hear whether Spanish wind firm giants Gamesa would choose Hartlepool as the site for a factory to make turbines, creating 800 jobs.

 He said TVU and other Hartlepool authorities had “done our best and worked really hard” to persuade the Spanish firm to come to town.

 He said the Tees valley offer to Gamesa was a “very competitive offer” and added: “We are in their hands.”