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North East urgently needs a strong infrastructure


Marianne O'Sullivan's Column for the Journal

The announcement of a budget and the publication of the National Infrastructure Strategy in March means it’s an important time for infrastructure investment in the NE.

We have seen that the Treasury has plans to reform the Green Book (the formula used to decide funding for projects) which could help to bring increased investment into our region and help to stop the transport funding gap between London and the North of England.

Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport came to the North East on his first Ministerial visit of 2020 earlier in January. During a meeting with Chamber members he emphasised Green Book reforms would lead to an increased focus on infrastructure projects across the North.

The National Infrastructure Strategy will outline long-term plans for the UK’s transport infrastructure, decarbonisation and digital infrastructure. The key aims of the strategy will include improving connectivity in the UK, increasing productivity and reducing carbon emissions. Our region needs to continue to cooperate and push the message for investment in the North East to take advantage of opportunities on this areas.

We will also continue to campaign for a connected North East including our Fast Track East Coast campaign for essential improvements to the East Coast Mainline.

The Budget will be crucial to see whether the Government commits to key infrastructure projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 with the Oakervee report into HS2 to be released soon.

We also expect to see an increased focus on the environment within this Budget, with plans for more energy efficient homes and investment in carbon capture, as well as sustainability playing an important role in decisions around transport spending.

In terms of housing we can expect reforms to shared ownership, and a housing infrastructure fund, to provide the roads and connections to schools and GPs to help support new housing developments.

As well as this we hope to learn more about plans for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund in the Budget. The fund will act to replace EU structural funding once the UK has left the EU. It is vital that the region continues to have the same access to funding that has helped to fund developments such as Sunderland Software City and Business Central in Darlington.