As we move towards the full lifting of lockdown restrictions, the Tees Valley can be rightly buoyed by a raft of recent announcements and initiatives.
Prominent among these is the establishment of the Teesside Freeport which is the largest in the UK. Comprising approximately 4,500 acres it includes Teesport, Teesworks, Teesside International Airport and the Port of Hartlepool. The area will benefit from relief on duties and taxes and reduced administration and tariff controls.
It is widely anticipated that the Freeport will become a hub for global trade and investment whilst promoting regeneration and job creation. Many believe it will be a creative dynamic environment that will place the region at the heart of the levelling up agenda.
Following swiftly on from the Freeport confirmation has been the announcement that the government is to set up the UK’s first hydrogen transport hub at Teesworks. Hydrogen will undoubtedly play a major role over the coming years in meeting the net zero carbon target. It is interesting to note that the region already produces over 50% of the UK’s hydrogen. The Hub’s facility will include a research and development complex promoting innovation and the sharing of knowledge.
The area’s drive to be the clean energy powerhouse of the UK was further advanced by the news that GE Renewable Energy is establishing a wind turbine blade manufacturing site at Teesworks. The new plant will open and commence production in 2023 and is estimated to create 750 direct jobs and 1500 indirect jobs in the local area. The facility will service the UK’s strong offshore wind market, particularly the Dogger Bank offshore windfarm. The three phases of the windfarm will be powered by the GE wind turbines and will have a combined installed generation capacity of 3.6 GW, enough to power 6 million homes. It will be the largest offshore windfarm in the UK.
Teesside has previously been known for its heavy industry and was once a global centre of steel production – the Sydney Harbour Bridge was made in Middlesbrough. But in 2015 Redcar steel plant was closed and the area is now better known for petrochemicals, energy and bio-resources. It is important that the initiatives so far instigated are delivered and the employment and regeneration targets are met.
Advanced manufacturing is also part of Teesside’s future and a little-known fact is that millions of doses of the Novavax vaccine are currently being produced on Teesside by Fujifilm Diosynth.
At Tritax Symmetry, we have over the last few years invested huge sums into the area. In 2019 we completed a 1.5 million sq ft sortation centre for Amazon which is now employing over 2,000 people. In addition, we also funded a further Amazon development of 2 million sq ft just off junction 61 of the A1M which has now been completed. In total this was investment of over £200 million. Logistics is undoubtedly going to be a part of the levelling up process as the industry creates significant jobs and increasingly large numbers of skilled positions.
And lastly, we shouldn’t forget the much spoken about redistribution of government departments to the regions. Darlington was in strong competition with Leeds, Bradford and Newcastle in securing the new Treasury North department which will comprise upwards of 750 jobs. The town has also been successful in securing an office of The Department for International Trade (DIT) which should provide 500 jobs. The DIT is involved in the promotion of British Trade and Investment throughout the world.
So Teesside is, undoubtedly, emerging from the pandemic in an optimistic and strong position. However, if the levelling up agenda is to succeed these initiatives and more must delivered and built on.