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Tees Valley Newsletter – Summer 2020

Message from the Mayor 

When the last newsletter was sent out, we were on the verge of lockdown, the true impact of the coronavirus pandemic hadn’t been seen and I was responding quickly to the immediate pressures faced by businesses and individuals across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool. I established a Tees Valley Business Helpline, flights were temporarily suspended from Teesside International Airport and, like everyone else, we were trying to adapt to the new normal. It certainly wasn’t business as usual.

However behind the scenes I was going further to support those who needed it most. You’ll read more about it below, but resources like Buy Local Tees Valley were quickly put in place to get the word out about local businesses still operating during the crisis, and hand sanitiser was distributed to frontline staff. I have also launched a £1million fund to pay the wages of our apprentices in this difficult time.

Now, as we hope that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, I’m looking to our economic recovery and the role the Tees Valley will play in that of the recovery of the wider UK. The country is coming out of lockdown and we’re doing the same, with a number of good news stories showing we’ve never stopped working on transforming the region. This includes a £1million Welcome Back fund to help small and medium-sized businesses in the hospitality and visitor sector as they begin to reopen next week.

Last week, we reopened the airport, with flights to Aberdeen and Belfast back on the schedule and with more to come on 6 July. We’ve moved forward with some exciting transport developments, landed events bringing some top music talent to the region, made further representations to Government on my Freeport plans and put in place grants to make sure our brilliant apprentices aren’t unfairly impacted by the coronavirus.

To show that the Tees Valley is ready and raring to go, please check out the below video which really captures our resilience and our drive to come back stronger than ever.


Update on Business Support During Coronavirus

Work has been carried out with partners to support businesses, charities, community groups and care settings on a range of initiatives helping thousands of people across Tees Valley.

To ensure business owners and tradesman were able to get the latest information on government support quickly and easily, in just two days the Tees Valley Business Support Helpline was established. This 24/7 line assisted companies across the region seeking support and advice during the pandemic. Since its launch the helpline has received more than 1,800 enquiries.

Almost 700 businesses and tradespeople currently open or operating have also signed up to the Buy Local Tees Valley website, which aims to connect local people with businesses that are still up and running through the pandemic.

To help shape a national and local response as we move toward the recovery efforts, more than 1,000 businesses have been surveyed to understand the effects the coronavirus has had and may have on Tees Valley businesses and the short, medium and long term support they need.

More than 70,000 bottles of hand sanitiser have now been sent to care workers, schools, charities, community groups and other at-risk workers from the 100,000 purchased by the Mayor and Combined Authority.

To sign your business up with the Buy Local site, or to find out more about local companies still open, visit

To contact the Tees Valley Business Support Helpline, call 01642 662 777 or email


Teesside International Airport Reopens Doors With New Route and Announces Very Special Guests

Teesside International Airport has reopened its doors to passengers, with a route to Newquay set to take off in just days and a new deal with KLM securing flights to Amsterdam Schiphol for at least another five years.

The first flights to leave the airport were Eastern Airways’ Monday to Friday daily routes between Teesside and Aberdeen and Teesside and Belfast.

The previously announced flights to London City Airport will begin on 6 July, the first time the region has been connected to the capital by air for more than a decade, and will run daily on Mondays and Fridays, and twice-daily on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

From 6 July local people will be able to fly direct to Newquay with Eastern Airways which will operate a once-a-day flight on Mondays and Fridays to the hugely popular holiday destination.

The airport has also signed a deal with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines which secures the route between Teesside and Amsterdam Schiphol for at least another five years. The news came as KLM announced the route would restart with a single daily service from 3 August.

The airport is in continued discussions with all of its airline partners over the reintroduction of services from Teesside Airport, with announcements on the return of more flights expected in the coming weeks.

The health, wellbeing and safety of passengers and staff is a priority as the airport reopens. A new six-step health and safety procedure, including hand sanitisers and the wearing of face masks, has been put in place and, during the first phase of the reopening, the terminal will only be open to local people planning to travel and airport staff.

It’s not just passengers that the airport is going to welcome soon. It will also play host to some of the UK’s biggest artists including Dizzee Rascal, Tony Hadley and Sigala as they descend on the Tees Valley for six weeks of live ‘drive-in’ entertainment.

Utilita Live From The Drive In will run for six days a week for six weeks from mid-July and will also see live performances from The Streets, The Zutons, Russell Watson, Gary Numan and Lightning Seeds, famous for their Euro 96 hit Three Lions, along with many more artists, with other big names still to be announced.

Rapper Dizzee Rascal became a household name with tracks such as Bonkers, Dance Wiv Me and Holiday. Also appearing will be DJ and record producer Sigala and Tony Hadley, who forged a successful solo career following his time as lead singer of Spandau Ballet in the 1980s.

The shows will take place on a specially constructed stage with the backdrop of the airport’s main runway. Despite the unique location of the stage, there will be no disruption to flights.

The programme of events will also include West End theatre performances, comedians, blockbuster films, interactive science shows and familiar faces from children’s TV. There will be morning, afternoon, early evening and late evening performances

Events are taking place at 12 venues across the UK between July and September, with the Teesside Airport drive-in the only venue of its type across the whole North East. Events will be capped to around 300 cars with adequate social distancing spacing in between. Bars and concessions will also be available.

For more information, visit

On the business side of the airport development, Willis Asset Management Ltd, a global aviation company, has chosen the airport as its location for a European aircraft maintenance base, which could create a significant number of new high skilled jobs.

After considering a number of possible locations across the continent, Willis Asset Management Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Willis Lease Finance Corporation, has agreed to the terms of a lease with the airport to use lease Hangar 1 and Hangar 1A as a base to allow it to house aircraft and parts while carrying out maintenance, storage and disassembly of a wide variety of commercial aircraft types.

Phase 1 of the development could see the creation of approximately 20 highly skilled engineering and management jobs. The deal includes further opportunity for expansion in Phase 2, with the possible development of additional hangar facilities and additional jobs.

The announcement will complement previously revealed plans to develop a £200million major logistics and manufacturing park at the airport’s Southside. Infrastructure work has begun on the 270-acre site and, once complete, it has the potential to create 4,400 jobs and deliver £3million per year to reinvest into the airport.


Middlesbrough Station Set For £35million Transformation

Mayor Preston, Mayor Houchen and Network Rail's Matt Rice at Middlesbrough station

A £35million transformation of Middlesbrough Station has been announced, to deliver more train services to the town, including the first direct rail link to London in decades.

The Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority has committed £22.5million to the scheme which, in its first phase early next year, will see a platform extension facilitate more services and longer trains. The extended platform 2 will be able to accommodate new LNER Azuma trains as discussions continue with the government-owned operator to restore daily services from Middlesbrough to the capital.

A second phase of development will include the refurbishment of the redundant, derelict and dilapidated station undercroft to provide a new £6.5million entrance into the station subway and newly refurbished business units on Zetland Road. There will also be changes to the road to the front of the station. A third phase could see a new platform 3 built to the north of platform 2 to further increase train capacity within the station.

The plans form part of an outline business case with preparatory work expected to start in the autumn, and building work on site in early 2021. The scheme is a joint partnership between the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority, Network Rail, Middlesbrough Council and the Department for Transport, with support from train operators.

In a further boost to the project, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps MP has pledged £2.45million in funding for the Middlesbrough plans. He also announced  an extra £8.7million of funding for the transformation of Darlington station, below, which would see improvements to its fabric, including improved entrances, and the regeneration of the wider area around the station.


£1million Fund Launched to Help Boost Apprenticeships

Apprenticeship Grant

A fund has been launched to support the wages of more than 100 apprentices as part of the region’s coronavirus response.

The Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority have earmarked almost £1million to encourage businesses to offer employment to more 16-20-year-olds across Tees Valley in a bid to reverse the decline of apprenticeship creation as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The money will be used to fund 100% of the apprentices’ wages in their first six months of employment, and 50% for the remainder of the apprenticeship, up to a maximum of two years.

A recent survey for the Combined Authority found 69% of businesses who responded stated that they had furloughed apprentices and 35% said they could no longer commit to employing an apprentice.

Businesses who sign up to the scheme will also be asked to pay the national minimum wage, rather than the national apprenticeship wage, where applicable, and the apprentices will also be employed for a minimum of 30 hours a week.

To apply for a grant or for more information, click here.

Tees Valley to Host Cook Islands for Rugby League World Cup 2021

Rugby League World Cup Team Announcement

Tees Valley will welcome the Cook Islands men’s international rugby league team for next year’s Rugby League World Cup, it has been announced.

The team will be based at Darlington’s Rockliffe Hall hotel and train at the town’s Mowden Park arena less than ten minutes away, while they compete in the seven-week tournament.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen was joined at Rockliffe Hall by its Managing Director Jason Adams and Mowden Park’s Danny Brown to welcome the announcement, made to mark 500 days until the start of the tournament. The event could give Tees Valley an economic boost of up to £8million, attracting tens of thousands of international rugby fans to the area.

The Cook Islands is a self-governing country in the South Pacific Ocean made up of 15 islands. It was named by Russians after Middlesbrough-born Captain James Cook, who visited many of the group’s southern islands.

Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium will also host a game during the major international competition, with Rugby League World Cup expected to release the fixtures throughout July, with tickets available on pre-sale from September.

The bid was put together by a partnership of the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority, Middlesbrough Football Club, Darlington Mowden Park RFC, MFC Foundation, Middlesbrough Council and Darlington Borough Council.

‘Welcome Back’ Hospitality and Tourism Fund Fully Committed in Just Four Days

A £250,000 fund to help front-line hospitality and tourism businesses across the region reopen following the coronavirus pandemic has been fully committed within just four days of being launched.

The Welcome Back fund is the first phase of a wider year-long £1million programme of support, which will help independent small and medium-sized visitor-facing businesses to reopen, with grants of up to £1,500.  

Launched by Mayor Houchen and Cllr Shane Moore, the Combined Authority’s Cabinet lead for Culture and Tourism, these grants will help businesses to make changes to the way they work to accommodate customers after the lockdown, including funding safety measures such as screens and adding floor markings and sanitisation points at their premises. The fund will also help businesses promote their reopening and help to ensure they meet the “We’re Good To Go” national tourism industry standards unveiled by Visit Britain.

The rest of the £1million investment will be used to bring more visitors to Tees Valley, and to help firms in the tourism, leisure and culture industries to cater for them and adapt to the new realities of doing business. Measures to support them in the plan include a high-profile campaign to show that the region has reopened for visitors, as well as further financial support and training.

Mayor Houchen is also expected to announce plans to make the region a top UK destination for cycling and walking holidays. The support package is being designed by Enjoy Tees Valley, our region’s destination marketing organisation, with support from the team at Tees Valley Business.

Policy Update

Rishi Sunak MP, Cllr Mary Lanigan, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen

Freeports Consultation

The government has the following objectives for UK Freeports and launched its Freeport consultation in February 2020:

  • Establish Freeports as national hubs for global trade and investment across the UK
  • Promote regeneration and job creation
  • Create hotbeds for innovation


Tees Valley Combined Authority’s response to the consultation has been developed in conjunction with local authorities and stakeholders and also through engagement with businesses and wider communities, which demonstrated significant support for a Freeport in the region.

The submission to the Government’s consultation builds on work done on Freeports by Mayor Houchen that culminated in a detailed policy paper being submitted to Government in 2019, building on the recommendations of a 2016 policy paper by now Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak MP, forming part of a campaign which launched in 2018 and was backed by more than 50 leading employers in the area. The paper found a Freeport on the River Tees could create up to 32,000 jobs and add £2billion to the regional economy.

The proposed consultation response was supported by Cabinet in May 2020 and will be submitted to government in advance of the July deadline.

Department for International Trade: UK Global Tariff

The Department for International Trade has announced the UK’s new tariff schedule in May 2020. The UK Global Tariff (UKGT) will come into force at the end of the transition period on 1 January 2021 and will replace the EU’s Common External Tariff, which applies until 31 December 2020. UKGT will apply to all goods imported into the UK unless:

  • an exception applies, such as a relief or tariff suspension
  • the goods come from countries that are part of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences
  • the country you’re importing from has a trade agreement with the UK

The UK Global Tariff tool allows you to check the tariffs that will apply to goods you import from 1 January 2021 and businesses are advised to familiarise themselves with the rates ahead of January 2021.