Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor, has issued the following statement outlining his Plan for 2018:

“2017 was an historic year for the Tees Valley. We are now just one of six areas in the UK with a Metro Mayor, meaning we’re at the top table with the likes of Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham. Our voice has never been louder with other parts of the country looking to us with envy.

“As Mayor, I have been opening doors previously closed to us to secure additional resources and supporting views for Tees Valley’s plans. We are punching above our weight and we’re starting to see the benefits.

“In the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget, we were handed £123million of new money to start remediation works on the South Tees Development Corporation site in Redcar. This is the single biggest regeneration opportunity in the UK, and with this cash we can kick-start our 25-year masterplan which could lead to 20,000 jobs being created.

“Regeneration and infrastructure improvements will attract global investors who will turn the land into a thriving industrial site. I promise that in 2018, we will start seeing spades in the ground.

“We were also awarded £59million from government to drastically improve our public transport system. We were only handed this money because we have a Mayor, and over the coming months I’ll be publishing my plans on we spend it.

“I am committed to ensuring the area has a strong economy which drives growth, and building the infrastructure we need for such regeneration to succeed. That’s why this year I’ll be finalising our bid to Government for a new bypass around Darlington, and a new Tees Crossing to relieve congestion on the A19. People have been talking about these projects for decades, now it’s time for action.

“My confidence in the region is shared by our fantastic local businesses. I have one simple view: if we back the innovators, the job creators, the entrepreneurs and the risk takers – everyone benefits. Indeed the whole mindset of my team is to ask how we can improve our local economy and create a perfect environment for the private sector to grow. Part of that is ensuring we do as much as we possibly can to support companies in our area.

“2018 will herald the launch of my new access to finance investment fund for start-ups to drive business growth and expansion. I want the Tees Valley to be the easiest place in the country to finance a growing business.

 “As well as investing in business, it is vital we ensure new job opportunities are filled by local people and that home-grown companies also benefit. I will be launching a new careers advice service which will see an overhaul of careers education, with schools and colleges working with local business to become directly informed of jobs and opportunities in the area.

“The idea you can only get on in life by going to university is nonsense – it’s great to encourage young people to learn a trade. It is therefore important to me that we do as much as we can to encourage people here to take up opportunities to train and develop new skills.

“That’s why we will continue to promote our grant scheme for employers seeking new apprentices. Our £1.3million Apprenticeship Fund reinforces our commitment to proper vocational courses in high-growth areas of our economy.

“In a meeting with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling last month, I laid out proposals for the Darlington 2025 vision to completely redevelop the station. This is our gateway to the rest of the UK, and it’s currently in an embarrassing state. I will continue to work with Darlington Borough Council to advance these proposals this year.

“It has taken a while, but this year I will be presenting a fully-costed and worked-up proposal to Peel Airports to bring Teesside Airport back into public ownership. This was a key election pledge of mine, and if our airport is ever to succeed it needs to be run for the people, by the people. I am confident we will see significant progress with this in the next 12 months.

“As for my other major election commitment on Cleveland Police, I will also launch an independent review this year.

“This is my record of action, and a promise of more. These pioneering plans for the year ahead will lay the groundwork for my plan to build a Tees Valley for everyone.”