Mayor Ben Houchen will today (5 March) meet Treasury ministers in London to discuss his plan to establish a Free Port in Tees Valley, the transformation of Darlington train station and the Northern Bypass scheme.
The Mayor will put forward the cases to Liz Truss, Chief Secretary for the Treasury, and Robert Jenrick, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury. Plans to improve the station, develop key transport links and create a Free Port have received strong support from businesses and influential leaders in the region.
The meetings come just days after Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons that Mayor Houchen had been a vocal advocate for Free Port status, and that the Government would remain open to any ideas to drive growth. Work continues on preparing a proposal to Government.
Free Ports provide special freedoms to trade, within a specific area around a major port. Such a status supports the expansion of international trade, attracting jobs and investment, by offering exemptions from certain operational, regulatory and customs requirements.
Significant investment from the Government is needed to progress with the Northern Bypass scheme and Darlington station revamp. Mayor Houchen will be making the case for both projects today.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling expressed his support for progressing a complete revamp of Darlington station and the surrounding area during a visit to the Tees Valley last December. The Darlington 2025 vision would see the rail infrastructure rearranged, leading to better local and national services. It would also ensure the station is ready for the high-speed HS2 rail network.
A Northern Bypass around Darlington would also provide opportunity for growth and improve transport links for better connectivity between Tees Valley and the A1(M). The route, around the north-east corner of the town, would alleviate stress on local roads, making them safer for road users, cyclists and pedestrians. A consultation on the proposed scheme took place last year.
Ben Houchen said: “We need urgent investment to get these projects off the ground. That’s why I’m in London today to push the case for a clear financial commitment to progress with rebuilding Darlington station and a new bypass around the town.
“I’ll also push the case for a Free Port for Teesport post-Brexit. In her major Brexit speech last week, the Prime Minister spoke of the UK being a modern, outward-looking, pioneering country. My plan for a Free Port will help Tees Valley businesses reach out to the world in on unprecedented scale.
“With an attractive Free Ports plan and essential upgrades to our transport links, I am taking every opportunity to make our region as inviting as possible to business from around the world. These schemes will mean more investment, more productivity and more jobs for local people.
“If we don’t stand up for Tees Valley in Government, nobody else will. With this cash injection into our region, we will build a local economy that works for everyone.”
The Mayor will also meet the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark, to brief him on the latest progress at South Tees Development Corporation. £123million was announced in the autumn Budget to start remediation works on the site, and over the coming weeks we are expecting a multi-billion energy announcement on the site of the former SSI steelworks.