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Tees Valley Newsletter – Winter 2020

Message from the Mayor 

As we come to the end of a most unprecedented year, it’s clear that back in January no one could have foreseen the challenges and difficulties we would face individually, as a region, nation and world.

Coronavirus continues to impact everything we do but the past few weeks have shown that there is light at the end of the tunnel. A new vaccine is being rolled out across the UK to our most vulnerable and, hopefully, by the time I next write one of these messages – at the start of spring – we’ll be able to see the results starting to pay off.

Still, we have not stood powerless in the face of the local and national lockdowns that have been in place since September. Our teams across the Combined Authority, Airport, Teesworks and LEP have shown the grit and spirit that marks our region out to get on with things and deliver some truly incredible developments.

Our response to the Coronavirus pandemic has led to the creation of hundreds of new roles and apprentices across our region; we have managed to meet one of our major milestones at Teesside International Airport in securing Ryanair, Europe’s No1 airline, as our low-cost carrier; and work continues apace at Teesworks, with more jobs created, planning permission for a huge offshore manufacturing site granted, and new partners revealed for the Teesworks Skills Academy.

That’s on top of being announced as the UK’s first Hydrogen Transport Centre, further boosting our clean energy credentials and building on our Net Zero and offshore work. We’ve also supported a couple of major schemes to help people access jobs and training and committed more funds to help our all-important culture, tourism and hospitality sectors. Even in lockdown, we’ve been busy!

You can read more about what we have been doing below. Until I see you next, I hope you have a merry Christmas and happy New Year – and please stay safe.

Work To Overhaul Airport Begins as Teesside International Secures Low Cost Carrier

In November, following discussions with Eastern Airways, Teesside International Airport temporarily revised its schedule as a response to the new coronavirus restrictions but vowed to keep key workers flying during pandemic.

Over the past few months there has also been a significant amount of progress in the Airport’s 10 Year Turnaround Plan, including Europe’s No1 airline Ryanair, the UK’s biggest holiday company TUI and Loganair all signing long-term commitments to fly from Teesside. A multimillion-pound refurbishment of the terminal is now under way.

Led by Stockton-based MJ Joinery is leading a renovation to the check-in and security areas. New check-in desks, baggage belts and a cutting-edge 3D hold baggage scanner will be installed, making departures smoother and easier. Waiting times through security will also be cut thanks to new bag and body scanners, already in use, that reduce the need for physical checks and passengers will no longer need to remove liquids and electronics from bags and pass them through separately.

To improve the customer experience, new food and drink and duty free areas are set to be created in the departures lounge, alongside a family-friendly zone and new passenger assistance desk.  An event in January will be held to give local businesses more information on how they can get involved in this work.


Green Light to Develop 9,000-Job Manufacturing Site Primed for Offshore Wind

Work has continued apace on the 12-month demolition and land remediation programme being carried out across the Teesworks site to prepare the land for investors.

More than 550 jobs have been created as part of the work, being carried out by local firms such as Hall Construction and Seymour Civil Engineering. Projects include the decontamination and demolition of five huge redundant oil tanks, remediation of 120 acres of land at the Dorman Point area of the site and on 152 acres of land at South Bank. This saw the demolition of 12 buildings, a railway bridge and more than 1km of rail tracks and sleepers since the work begun in July.

Planning permission has been granted for the South Bank area to create a state-of-the-art offshore wind manufacturing site which could create 9,000 jobs. The 4.5million sq ft development will also create 1,000 construction jobs during its eight-year build programme and could welcome its first tenants as soon as 2022.

It will support a proposed new £90million 1.3km quay to give global companies direct access from the site to the biggest wind farms across the world, helping develop the region into the UK’s premier offshore wind location.

Teesworks Skills Academy has also moved a step closer, with leading local colleges signing up to help deliver the project, to ensure local people have the right skills to fill the jobs being created on site.

The Teesworks Skills Academy will be led by the Education Training Collective (Etc), which includes Stockton Riverside and Redcar and Cleveland Colleges. These will be joined by Darlington, Middlesbrough and Hartlepool FE Colleges and Teesside University and the Learning Curve Group to help deliver the academy. The academy will also work with Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council who will use their community-based training and employment hubs to help train local people and enable them to access jobs.


UK’s First Hydrogen Transport Centre Comes To The Tees Valley

Government Transport Minister Rachel Maclean visited the Tees Valley to announce that the UK’s first Hydrogen Transport Centre would be built in the region.

When established, the centre will lead research, development and testing of new hydrogen transport technologies, including for cars, buses, trains, lorries, boats and planes.

Rachel Maclean and Mayor Houchen visited TWI in Middlesbrough to announce the new centre, which will be built next to TWI in partnership with Teesside University, forming a new innovation campus focused on clean energy research and development.

The centre, expected to be operational in 18 months, will complement the new Tees Valley Net Zero Innovation Centre, creating a national hub for hydrogen research and development, further strengthening the region’s clean growth ambitions while paving the way for hundreds of more clean energy jobs.

Combined with renewable electricity, hydrogen can be produced, stored and used to generate heat and electricity without producing any greenhouse gases or air pollutants.

A strong hydrogen economy could add up to £7billion to the region’s economy from now until 2050, creating thousands of jobs. The UK’s first Hydrogen Transport Centre would sit alongside plans to build the world’s biggest hydrogen refuelling station in the region.


Successful Access to Work Schemes Expanded

Two popular schemes helping local people access employment have been expanded with more than £1.5milllion of investment. A £900,000 investment will see the £7.5million Routes to Work scheme, which was due to wind down in September 2021, continue until March 2022.

The scheme helps those over 30 who are facing the most difficult barriers to employment gain work and has been a huge success. To date, it has engaged with almost 3,000 people and helped 573 unemployed people back into work. It will now also be expanded to cover anyone aged 16 or above.

Wheels 2 Work, above, provides an affordable means of transport for local people who do not have easy access to public transport or a private vehicle, so they can travel to their job, education or training. This was also due to end in March 2021.

However an extra £645,000 of funding agreed by the Combined Authority Cabinet in November will keep the scheme running for another three years and help it expand its fleet of around 60 vehicles.

Festive Shoppers Spoilt For Choice as 1,000 Firms Sign Up to Buy Local

We are continuing our response to the coronavirus pandemic, with a redeveloped Buy Local Tees Valley website attracting more than 1,000 independent businesses to advertise on the site.

In the run-up to Christmas, almost 17,000 shoppers have visited the website to get hold of goods and services offered by local traders during the national and regional lockdowns. To find out more, visit

More than one hundred new Tees Valley apprentices have now been created thanks to a £1million Emergency Apprenticeship Fund scheme. The fund was opened in June to ensure that young people aged 16 to 20 were not left behind as a result of the pandemic. It has now closed after 105 new apprentice roles have been created in everything from GP surgeries and bioengineering to construction and railway and locomotive manufacturing.

And more than 500 roles have been created at 159 Tees Valley businesses as we helped them access Government’s Kickstart scheme.

It is is a £2billion fund aimed at creating hundreds of thousands of high-quality six-month work placements to those aged 16 to 24 who are on Universal Credit and are deemed to be at risk of long-term unemployment. Through the scheme the Government will pay the wage bill of a young person for six months. Applications are still open at

A fund of more than £300,000 has also been launched to help culture businesses adapt, innovate and diversify in the face of the pandemic.

Small and medium-sized businesses, alongside sole traders and freelancers, were encouraged to apply for the Cultural Development and Innovation Fund to help them bring forward new ways of working to help them thrive in response to the outbreak. Successful respondents are currently being asked to submit full applications to access the fund.

£16.5million Boost To Help Creative And Culture Sectors Thrive Post-Coronavirus

A £16.5million programme is set to support the long-term recovery of the creative and visitor sectors in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The funding will be used to support business resilience, development and growth, attract new events to the region, grow local festivals and events and boost Tees Valley’s profile as a visitor destination.

These sectors, including culture, leisure and tourism, have been badly hit by the outbreak of the virus. It is projected that there will be a loss of 48.4% to Tees Valley’s visitor economy in 2020, while 44% of creative, culture, tourism and hospitality businesses have reported that their businesses may have to permanently close, compared to 28% across all sectors.

In response, Mayor Houchen established a Task Force, chaired by ARC’s Chief Executive and Artistic Director Annabel Turpin, to provide sector-led advice and insight into the challenges and opportunities these businesses face.

The new programme, focused on recovery, regeneration and growth of the creative and visitor sectors. complements work previously done to immediately help the region’s hospitality and tourism businesses. This includes the £1million Welcome Back Fund which helped hospitality companies reopen safely following the first national lockdown.


LEP Update – Spotlight on Annabel Turpin

Annabel Turpin, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of Stockton’s ARC, is a LEP board member representing the culture sector in the Tees Valley. She is also chair of the LEP’s Creative & Visitor Economy Task Force, established as a response to the coronavirus pandemic. Here, she talks more about her background and roles within the LEP.

I have primarily led arts centres for most of my working life. Before moving to the Tees Valley to work at ARC, I was Director of Norden Farm Centre for the Arts in Maidenhead and Events Manager at Warwick Arts Centre.

I am incredibly passionate about how arts and culture can help communities, and as well as sitting on the Tees Valley LEP, I am a board member for the North East Culture Partnership and I co-chair Future Arts Centres, a national network of more than 100 arts centres.

I joined the LEP as I was hungry to understand more of the regional context surrounding my work at ARC and how it connects with the lives of individuals. Within that, I wanted to make sure culture and tourism was represented, and the massive part the sector plays in the region – and its wider benefits – were understood. What’s great about the LEP is that you learn so many new things and although all the members come from completely different sectors, there’s a huge amount of commonality and a similarity in what we’re facing.

This is especially true in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the first things the LEP identified was that the impact on the creative and tourism sectors would be harder and longer than many others, given they are primarily involved in bringing large groups of people together! That market knowledge led to a quick response and we were one of the first Combined Authorities able to provide financial support and guidance for these sectors.

The Mayor appointed me chair of the Creative and Visitor Economy Task Force to help continue this support, refine our recovery programme and ensure we remain responsive. But outside of the support, the great thing about the Task Force is that it shows we care and demonstrates to all sorts of businesses that they matter, which is something we really need now.

One thing to come out of the pandemic is that we’ve accelerated how we’re using the region’s digital technology and expertise to reach people. Arts traditionally relied on getting people in a room but using technology, we’re able to reach more people – for example the high proportion of people who identify as disabled – and engage with them further. Saying that, we are optimistic people will want to get away from their screens and come back to the arts and tourism businesses when it’s safe to do so.

COVID also shone a lens on different ways of working and we’re seeing more resilient business models which makes it feel like we’re in a good position for further business growth. We have brilliant arts and media courses in our higher education institutions and I’d love to see all of our young people graduating now go on to work in the sector, and not be fearful of their future.

I’d encourage any business leaders to consider joining the LEP, and you certainly get out what you put in. You end up learning about things you never usually would – transport, freeports, the interdependencies of all our sectors, strategic economic plans. But in doing this, you strengthen your own understanding of the wider regional landscape which is a huge benefit for your day-to-day job.


Policy Update  

Spending Review 2020

The Chancellor of the Exchequer set out departmental spending plans for 2021 – 2022 on 25th November 2020. The Spending Review 2020 prioritises funding to support the government’s response to Covid-19 and invest in the UK’s recovery. Key announcements include:

  • Publication of the National Infrastructure Strategy (see below)
  • Levelling Up Fund worth £4 billion to invest in local infrastructure that has a visible impact on people and their communities and will support economic recovery. The government will publish a prospectus for the fund and launch the first round of competitions in the New Year
  • Details of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and funding for pilot programmes to help local areas prepare for UKSPF. The government will set out further details of the UKSPF in a UK-wide investment framework published in the spring
  • A refreshed Green Book to ensure that project appraisals properly analyse how proposals deliver the government’s key priorities, including levelling up, and how they will impact different places
  • Investment to transition to zero emission vehicles
  • Carbon Capture and Storage Infrastructure Fund
  • £100billion of capital spending in 2021-22 targeted towards investment that will drive economic recovery and support jobs and businesses across the UK

National Infrastructure Strategy

The National Infrastructure Strategy was published on 25th November and sets out the government’s plans to deliver an infrastructure revolution which is tied to net zero. The strategy cuts across four themes: levelling up; decarbonisation and green energy; private investment; and accelerating and improving delivery. To support the economic recovery, government investment in economic infrastructure will be £27billion in 2021-22, with £100billion for overall public investment.

Green Industrial Revolution

The Prime Minister announced the government’s ten-point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution on 18th November. The plan aims to create and support 250,000 jobs across the UK, mobilise £12billion of government investment to create and support these jobs and is built around the UK’s strengths and industrial heartlands to level up and build back greener.


The government opened the bidding process to establish up to ten new Freeports on 16th November 2020. The bidding prospectus sets out the government’s ambition for Freeports policy, the government’s core Freeport objectives, what is expected of bidders and what a best-in-class Freeport proposal will set out. The bidding prospectus provides additional detail on the UK’s Freeports model, including clear geographic guidelines on site design and size, and how Freeport levers relating to customs, tax, planning, regeneration and innovation will work.

The closing date for submissions is 5th February 2021, and bids will be assessed by a MHCLG chaired assessment panel in March 2021, with decisions made in Spring.

The Tees Valley Mayor will submit a bid on behalf of the region to become the country’s first and largest Freeport.


Merry Christmas from everyone at Tees Valley Combined Authority. Please click below to watch our end of year video – and here’s to a better, brighter 2021!