Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Bosses Play Down Strategy Change

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Bosses Play Down Strategy Change

Article excerpt

Byline: Alan Formby-Jackson

BUSINESS leaders were today playing down the Government's watering down of wording in a key regional economic blueprint.

The draft strategy for development up to 2020 was drawn up by the North East Assembly, which is the planning body for the region.

But the Government has now proposed changes to the document including parts focusing on PD Ports plans to build a pounds 300m deep sea container terminal at Teesport which has the potential to generate more than 5,000 jobs in the area.

The original draft talked of "significant opportunity" to develop Northern ports, but the Department for Communities and Local Government has downgraded this in the latest draft to "the opportunity may exist".

Rail improvements to Teesport were previously "required" but this has now been changed to "desired".

Martyn Pellew, PD Ports development director, said: "I think it's a little disappointing if they have toned down the very strong recommendations coming from the region.

But he added: "The change in the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) draft does not make a big difference to us."

However, he said it did illustrate "the continuous struggle we have had in persuading central government of the merit of the regional port regime".

He added the upgrade of the rail network was not crucial to the container terminal plan although it was the best long-term solution.

"We have had whole hearted support in the region and are working hard to convince anyone else on a national basis," he said.

The Government has also given the final go ahead for the pounds 1.5bn expansion of a rival development in the south of England.

But Mr Pellew said this had been expected and would not deter the company from pressing ahead with their plans.

He said the Government giving the green light to a London Gateway container port as well as a commercial centre and business park on the former Shell oil refinery site at Shell Haven in the Thames Estuary in Thurrock, Essex, "clearly demonstrates" the need for additional capacity in the UK port sector.

He added: "We continue to argue heavily that should be based in both the south and north. …

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