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NECC Holds Regional Infrastructure Conference


Business leaders from across the North East held a summit in Newcastle to set the economic priorities for the region.

Business leaders from across the North East held a summit in Newcastle to set the economic priorities for the region.

"North East Infrastructure: Are We Fit for the Future?" attracted over 100 attendees from the business community and the public sector – all of whom called for additional infrastructure investment and co-ordination to help the region meet its economic potential.

The North East boasts a wealth of infrastructure benefits which means it has an enviable capacity for sustainable economic growth. Huge water resources, large port facilities, a coastline with proximity to proposed offshore wind farms and excellent international airports make the North East a resource-rich yet relatively under-invested in region.

The conference was organised by the North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC).

Mark Stephenson, NECC Policy Advisor, said:

"We have so many assets in the region that are extremely attractive for inward investors and existing businesses, but our infrastructure prioritisation and investment lags way behind the rest of the country. This must be addressed if we are to compete for business on a level playing field.

"We have fantastic rail links, but we're seeing the west coast get priority for high speed rail investment, we're the only region of the UK that does not enjoy a motorway link with the capital, our ports and airports are going great guns, but are hampered by restrictive taxation and our rural areas require greater access to super fast broadband.

"Currently we punch above our weight in terms of winning investment, but with these issues addressed we could help the region recognise its true economic potential."

The NECC conference was hosted by Journal editor Brian Aitken and speakers at the event included Paul Woolston and John Lowther from both the North Eastern and Tees Valley Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) respectively.

Mr Woolston said:

"The Government wants to hear about good business propositions from the region. They don't want us to submit wish lists for projects, but if we can demonstrate projects that are good propositions then they will be heard."

His view was back by Mr Lowther, who said Tees Valley Unlimited had established relationships with utilities companies in an effort to ensure their work was prioritized to ensure maximum economic development.

Other speakers included Charles Reynard from, Eversheds, Jonathan Spruce of Fore Consulting, RenewPlus' Chris Haywood, Julian Leslie of the National Grid, National Solar Service's Tim Bridle and Mike Galvin of BT's Next Generation Access.

The event focused on the key infrastructure areas of:

• Energy: Harnessing the huge potential in North East energy sector
• Transport: Prioritising support and growing surface and air access to markets
• Resources: Preventing North East assets being undersold
• Digital: Ensuring that broadband coverage is rolled effectively

The economic priorities agreed on the day will be utilised to firm the bulk of an infrastructure report being compiled by NECC, which will in turn help establish lobbying priorities for the region's largest business membership organisation in 2012.

Click here to view the NECC Infrastructure Conference Presentation

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