A new arena on the Gateshead Quayside and two Durham business parks are the first beneficiaries of cash secured through the North East’s devolution deal.
Local authority leaders have signed off on more than £23m of spending that marks the first investment of money given to the region by the Government under the historic devolution agreement, which will see a North East mayor elected in May to cover Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, and Durham.
While that multi-billion pound deal still has to pass through Parliament to be formally ratified, ministers committed to handing the North East some funding in advance of the election to help kickstart some key developments.
That will include a £3.5m contribution towards the creation of the new Sage International Conference Centre and 12,500-capacity arena planned for the Gateshead Quayside.
Building work is yet to start on that huge regeneration project, nestled between the Baltic Art Centre and the music venue now rebranded as the Glasshouse, which has been planned for years.
Construction on the scheme, which has suffered a number of setbacks since originally being approved in 2020 and is now expected to cost more than £350m, is now due to begin this spring, according to papers sent to the North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA) on Tuesday.
The NTCA, which is in charge of allocating this funding before the new North East Mayoral Combined Authority (NEMCA) is established, also signed off on £9.2m of investment for the Aykley Heads business park development in Durham – to cover some costs associated with the demolition of County Hall, the building of a new cultural venue, and procurement of a construction partner.
A further £10.7m will go towards the expansion of the NETPark science and technology centre in Sedgefield, which it is hoped will create 1,250 new jobs.
Other projects expected to be awarded early funding through the devolution deal include regeneration of North Shields town centre, student accommodation in South Shields’ Prince George Square, and cultural development in Blyth and Newcastle city centre.
Gateshead Council leader Martin Gannon said of the arena investment: “This additional funding will accelerate the delivery of The Sage International Conference Centre, accelerating the economic benefits of The Sage to radiate out across the region as local businesses and hospitality benefit from the increase of trade in the area. The funding will also deliver enhanced public spaces and routes from the Sage International Conference Centre through the Railway Quarter, safeguarding existing businesses and providing scope for new businesses locally.”
Durham Council leader Amanda Hopgood added that the two investments in her county would “provide jobs for our residents and are key to economic success both locally and for the wider North East”.
She said: “This funding will accelerate the redevelopment of land at Aykley Heads as part of the exciting new Durham Innovation District, and contribute to the emerging phase three at NETPark in Sedgefield. These early investments demonstrate confidence in County Durham and the wider region, and we look forward to working together with regional partners to maximise the devolved powers and funding that are available to us. ”
North Tyneside deputy mayor Carl Johnson said at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting that it was important for NEMCA to “hit the ground running” with investment, with elected North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll adding that it was “wonderful” to see areas south of the river already benefiting from the devolution deal.