THE LIVES of residents and business owners in North Shields are set to be improved thanks to a new partnership with a town more than 300 miles away.

On the back of North Shields’ recent twinning with Welsh town Merthyr Tydfil as part of the Carnegie UK Trust Twin Towns project, business leaders from both areas have begun work on a plan to help bring further prosperity to the local economy.

After sending a trio of representatives to visit Merthyr, just north of Cardiff, at the beginning of April, the North Shields Chamber of Trade and Commerce welcomed a Welsh delegation to the north-east to begin work on their plan for economic improvement.

By sharing their knowledge gained from decades of industry experience, business leaders from both towns believe their partnership can make a real difference in future.

David Bavaird, chairman of North Shields Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said: “We are working on a plan for both towns which we think will further improve the economic performance of North Shields.

“This, in turn, will have a positive impact on the people who live here, and improve their life-chances, giving them more opportunities in different areas of their lives.

“The town already benefits from strong engagement between the local authority, business, voluntary and educational sectors, and we are confident the Merthyr Tydfil partnership will enhance this.

“Already, businesses based in our two towns are in contact with each other, sharing best practice and helping each other conquer challenges they face. They have a lot to give us, and we have lots to share with them.

“This is a very exciting time to be part of the huge network of businesses, schools, volunteer organisations and residents within the town. The future is looking very bright for North Shields.”

Merthyr Tydfil and North Shields were two of just ten towns selected by Carnegie UK Trust for their town-twinning trial, aimed at reinvigorating local economies.

Both historically industrial towns, they both have the same focus of attracting economic growth and improving the employment and wellbeing opportunities for their residents.

Antonia Pompa, Merthyr Tydfil’s business improvement district co-ordinator, was part of a delegation of three who spent two days touring North Shields.

Their stay included visits to, among others, North Tyneside Council, the Fish Quay, town centre and Cobalt Business Centre, as well as various businesses and schools.

Antonia said: “We have learned a lot from each other, working to understand each other’s town centres, what and who makes them tick.

“This will build towards sharing plans and ideas which could make a huge difference to both of our towns.

“What works in Merthyr might not work in North Shields and vice-versa, but by speaking together and sharing our experience we think we can help move things forward for both towns.

“We have already begun linking our library services and football teams. The libraries have been sharing what is being read and what they are doing, and hopefully North Shields will play Merthyr in a pre-season friendly before next season.

“Things are really taking shape which is so exciting. Who knows where it is going to end up. It will be interesting to see, a few months down the line, where things are. I’m confident the partnership will be a huge success!”

Representatives from Carnegie UK were also able to tour the town, and were present at a drinks reception at The Exchange, on Howard Street, North Shields, to celebrate the partnership.

Pauline Radcliffe, project manager for Twin Towns UK, said: “Carnegie UK Trust invited towns that were interested in working with and learning from other towns across the UK to be twinned together.

“The North Shields Chamber of Commerce approached us in 2016 and we matched them with Merthyr Tydfil.

“We are delighted with what we have seen in North Shields, particularly the collaboration between the business, education and voluntary sectors.

“The relationship between the two towns already seems to be very positive. We have seen a lot of ideas and passion being shared which is what it is all about!”

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