Heseltine hails “incredible transformation” as Tees Valley launches industrial strategy

“If you could invest in a Tees Valley plc company then I would give it very serious consideration,” said former deputy PM Michael Heseltine at the launch of the Tees Valley Strategic Economic Plan on 8 December 2016.

Speaking before a packed audience of 250 business leaders in Darlington, Lord Heseltine said that the area had already undergone an “incredible transformation” in the past 12 months since around 3,000 direct and indirect jobs were lost after the Teesside SSI steel plant closed in October last year. “Across the Tees Valley business is buoyant with 4,000 more people in work than a year ago,” said Heseltine. The area has pulled together with public and private sectors uniting under the leadership of the new Tees Valley Combined Authority, he said.

The new Tees Valley Strategic Economic Plan outlines a ten-year industrial strategy for the region, which by 2026 is set to deliver 25,000 additional jobs and generate an extra £2.8bn into the Tees Valley economy. The Tees Valley will be the demonstration region for the circular economy in England and the plan predicts an increased return on investment in the local economy to £1:£8.

By 2040, the plan says that the Tees Valley will contribute 10% of the total GVA growth target for the Northern Powerhouse despite only making up 4% of the population.

Heseltine was returning to the region to speak at the launch after he was invited by Sajid Javid, secretary of state for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, to write his Tees Valley: Opportunity Unlimited report earlier this year to support inward investment in the Tees Valley and to look at the SSI site following its closure. 

The former deputy PM said that devolution was key to the future success of the Tees Valley region. “Transferring power to local people is learning the lessons from the past,” Heseltine said. With the advent of the new combined authority and the devolution deal as part of that the Tees Valley was looking at “a prize that exceeds anything that has been on offer in the post-war world,” said Heseltine and he was confident that local people working together would grasp the opportunity.

"With the new combined authority and devolution deal, the Tees Valley is looking at a prize that exceeds anything that has been on offer in the post-war world."

Lord Heseltine

The strategic plan will benefit from the Tees Valley devolution deal, which includes the election of a mayor and also a £15m a year development corporation for the area. “We’re determined to build the Northern Powerhouse and this Plan will help make sure the extra £450m the area will benefit from, thanks to their historic devolution deal, will be spent on projects boosting growth right across region,” Heseltine said.

Speaking at the launch, Dave Budd, chair of the Tees Valley Combined Authority, said: “Our plan builds on Lord Heseltine’s Tees Valley: Opportunity Unlimited report and shows that this is a region that has a future and not just a past. The Strategic Economic Plan is a key driver to unlocking the economic potential of Tees Valley. The devolution deal will bring key decision making powers and budgetary control to the area and this will play a key role in delivering the future economic success of the area,” said Budd.

Also speaking at the launch event, Paul Booth, chair of Tees Valley Unlimited, the local enterprise partnership for Tees Valley, said: “The Strategic Economic Plan is a clear mandate for business, partners and stakeholders to encourage the delivery of shared goals and attract investment. It sets out the main priorities of the local enterprise partnership and the combined authority and the key focus for investment for both the private and public sector.”

Since 2011, Tees Valley and local partners have secured £223m of investment which is set to deliver 11,000 jobs and £1.47bn of public/private investment. Concerns remain however, as this includes £169.8m of funding from the European Commission through the European Structural and Investment Fund and officials were keen to stress at the launch event that post-Brexit it will be essential that replacement resources are available for the Tees Valley to make up this potential funding gap.

The Strategic Economic Plan also maps out a number of key transport and infrastructure priorities, including securing an additional strategic road crossing if the River Tees, enhancing access to Enterprise Zone locations and ensuring that the final section of the A19 expressway meets its targets. There are also plans to improve east-west road connectivity to provide a high quality corridor along the A66 from the A1(M) to Teesport and an intention to upgrade the rail line from Northalerton to Middlesbrough/Teesport.

Additional infrastructure priorities include developing a second rail gateway at Middlesbrough Station, further upgrading of the A19/A168 corridor as an expressway to serve nearby regions, development of a Liverpool to Teesport rail route, completing the dualling of the A66 between the A1(M) and the M6 to better connect the Tees valley to key northern markets and south west Scotland and ensuring the continued roll out of high speed broadband.

Lord Heseltine hailed the work of local people in putting together the plan and mapping out a sustainable future for the Tees Valley. “The views and input of local people has been a central driving feature of these plans,” he said. 

“We have a plan that draws on the public and private sectors working together and it will be the men and women who eat, live, sleep and dream in the Tees Valley who will responsible for creating the region’s prosperity in the future,” he said. Local empowerment and leadership were critical to that success, said Heseltine. “In years to come, people will look back and say: ‘look what we did’,” he said.

Tees Valley Strategic Economic Plan - key priorities over the next ten years

Business Growth – attracting new business, improving access to finance and skills, and growing local business through an expanded Business Compass programme.

Research, Development, Innovation and Energy – creating centres of innovation and technology, contributing to the UK’s industrial strategy in sectors of expertise; including biologics and materials.

Education, Employment and Skills – increasing the number of graduate opportunities and vocational training, improving educational outcomes, and increasing the number of young people in education, employment and training.

Place – creating vibrant town centres and expanding the quality and number of new homes.

Transport and Infrastructure – plans to improve road, rail and bus services, connect Darlington to HS2, and develop plans for improved East-West connections and an additional Tees Crossing.

The Circular Economy – proposals to develop a ‘low cost/high productivity/low carbon’ model for industry in Tees Valley, securing new investment by building clusters of companies connected through supply chains and sustainable energy supplies.

Click here to download the Tees Valley Strategic Economic Plan.

Click here to download an executive summary.


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