NECC seeks ministerial meetings to overcome planning inspector findings.
THE Government has been urged to back County Durham’s ambitious growth plans or the North East will never be empowered to reach its economic potential.
That is the view of the region’s largest business membership organisation, which this week wrote to Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to raise concerns after a planning inspector’s report ridiculed sections of the ambitious County Durham Plan.
The North East Chamber of Commerce worked closely with the local authority to produce the Plan, which included a raft of pro-growth policies aimed at helping the county boost its economic potential.
The letter, from NECC Chief Executive, James Ramsbotham, calls for a meeting with Mr Pickles to raise concerns surrounding the inspector’s report as well as outlining the important role the county has played in recent regional growth.
Mr Ramsbotham said: “By creating an ambitious plan and vision for the future, Durham County Council has made a clear statement that it is open for business; a statement that we fully support.
“The Inspector’s report, by ridiculing these ambitions, seeks to condemn the North East to a future of low growth and aspiration. This flies in the face of the Government’s desire to stimulate growth in the North and to create a more sustainable, balanced economy. It also holds little regard for the current successes of County Durham businesses, many of which are world leaders in their sectors and are making considerable investments for the future.
“The North East is currently growing productivity at a faster rate than the UK average, is the only region that consistently reports a positive balance of trade and has more people in work than ever before. County Durham businesses are playing a significant role in making this happen. However, there is much more that we can do if given the support and freedom to be ambitious in our economic plans.
“We worked closely with Durham County Council throughout the development of the CDP to ensure that businesses have had the opportunity to understand and shape the Plan. We feel it contains the ambition required to drive forward growth, empower business and ensure the region delivers more for UK PLC.”
NECC believes County Durham, as a major centre for manufacturing, advanced research and tourism, has a major role to play in the economic success of the wider region.
“We recognise the need to meet evidence standards in formulating this plan,” added Mr Ramsbotham. “But the Council is right to be ambitious in its development plans and should seek to break long term trends of unemployment and job creation. This can only be achieved if businesses are given the certainty and confidence to invest in an area which is seeking to accommodate them.
“This means not only allocating sufficient space for employment land, but also providing the necessary infrastructure to support economic flows and high quality housing to cater for both inward migration and indigenous growth not only in County Durham but also in Tyneside, Wearside and Teesside.
“The Government must understand this and as such I would welcome the opportunity to meet with Mr Pickles to discuss this issue further.”