Tees Valley demonstrates new strengths

Ewan Peacock
The Tees Valley has weathered the demise of shipbuilding, coal mining and steel manufacturing, but new opportunities are enabling the region to punch above its weight.

These are important times for the Tees Valley as it pursues new economic growth. The region’s history in manufacturing and engineering, chemicals and process, logistics and energy remains very important to its identity, but digital manufacturing, life sciences and innovative renewables are now in the spotlight.

The Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) is playing an important role in driving economic growth and job creation in the area, under the leadership of mayor Ben Houchen. Comprising Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar & Cleveland and Stockton-on-Tees local councils, the combined authority was created in April 2016. The 30-year devolution agreement is worth £450m; the recently published ‘Tees Valley Investment Plan 2019-2029’ earmarks £588.2m of investment into the area.

TVCA works closely with the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and wider business community, via a strategic economic plan that focuses on six key areas: transport; education; employment & skills; business growth; culture & tourism; research, development & innovation, and place. The plan aims to create 25,000 new jobs and deliver an additional £2.8bn into the Tees Valley economy by 2026.

Notable successes include the launch of the South Tees Development Corporation (STDC), the single biggest development opportunity in the UK.

Covering 4,500 acres to the south of the River Tees, in the Borough of Redcar and Cleveland, the STDC area includes the former SSI steelworks site as well as other industrial assets, and the deep-water port of Teesport, England’s largest exporting port. The aim is to bring the SSI site, and other under-utilised land in the area, back in to economic use. Faithful+Gould is working with the South Tees Site Company on the initial remediation of the STDC site.

An integrated transport approach is critical to unlocking the growth potential of the Tees Valley, enabling businesses to access UK and European supply chains, and residents to benefit from emerging job opportunities. Better connectivity will also encourage private sector investment, as illustrated by Middlesbrough’s £30m snow centre, facilitated by the Priestman Bridge & Road, a project that our team delivered for Middlesbrough Council.

Planned transport projects include highways (the Darlington Link Road, and Second Tees Crossing), the redevelopment of Darlington (HS2 Growth Hub) and Middlesbrough stations, and the initiative to bring Durham Tees Valley Airport back into public ownership. The 2025 200th anniversary of the Stockton to Darlington Railway will spearhead investment in a major visitor attraction.

There are many other exciting projects happening throughout the region. In Darlington, a world-leading retailer will operate a fulfilment centre from Symmetry Park, and improvements are under way at Feethams leisure complex. In Middlesbrough, Teesside Advanced Manufacturing Park (TeesAMP) will offer a prime location for innovative manufacturing companies, and Centre Square development will create 200,000 sq ft of premier office space in the town centre. The latter project is now on site, and we are providing project and cost management support to Middlesbrough Council.

In Stockton-on-Tees, the Northshore Development Partnership is transforming the riverside through 450,000 sq ft of mixed development, and Fujifilm’s Diosynth BioCampus reinforces the region’s health and biologics sector. Hartlepool has embarked on regeneration of its waterfront, with a concept master-plan outlining a water activity centre, public realm works and a sculpture trail in the initial phase.

Ensuring a high-quality environment where people and business thrive is a critical enabler of the Strategic Economic Plan and Local Industrial Strategy. It’s hoped that further corporate relocations will be forthcoming, taking advantage of competitive land, property and labour costs. Grade A office rents are attractive compared with other northern cities such as Manchester and Leeds, and with wider national rates. The Centre Square development in Middlesbrough will provide high quality Grade A office accommodation in the heart of the Tees Valley— our team has supported Middlesbrough Council with this development.  For relocating staff, there is certainly much to recommend in this region, with its good quality of life and low cost of living.

TVCA and the five local authorities are now addressing housing market undersupply with plans for build-to-rent, new garden village settlements, unlocking of stalled housing sites, off-site manufacture and increased provision of affordable homes.

The local workforce offers transferable skills to meet economic demand, reinforced by employment support programmes, including apprenticeships, and supported by local colleges and universities which help graduates become the future workforce. More than £270m has been invested in Teesside university, with a further £300m planned over the next ten years. Neighbouring Newcastle University and Durham University are also excellent resource pools.

It’s likely that more grade A office space will be required in the years ahead, and for commercial developers, this region offers real potential. The TVCA-led transport and infrastructure development is acting as a catalyst for private sector investment, which, combined with a can-do attitude to planning, is leading to more available land for development and improved business confidence.

SNC-Lavalin’s Faithful+Gould business, together with Atkins, has been integral to the Tees Valley’s reinvigoration, with recent projects including the National Horizons Centre, Northern School of Art, South Tees Site Company works, Centre Square, Priestman Bridge & Road, TeesAMP, Middlesbrough Town Hall and A66 junction improvements. We value our own heritage in this vibrant region and we’re immensely proud to be part of Tees Valley’s new chance to shine.