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Paucity of ambition threatens region?s success

Date 31 May 2007

The Government was yesterday accused of selling the North East down the river by dismissing plans for a series of major investments just as the region’s economy is surging ahead. The North East Chamber of Commerce said Ministers were thrusting a “paucity of ambition” on the region that would shackle future success. NECC plans to formally lobby the Government over key points in the newly-published Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS), which the organisation says is a crucial document for the future development of the North East.

The RSS lays down the framework for the economic growth of the region until 2020 and is supposed to act as a catalyst for future prosperity. But NECC is extremely concerned that fundamental changes called for by the region have been ignored or downgraded by the Government.

James Ramsbotham, NECC chief executive, said: “The North East economy is doing incredibly well which is why this watered down version of the RSS by the Government is so frustrating. It will cut off the green shoots of prosperity and push us back towards the dark days of a begging-bowl region asking for handouts. We cannot afford for this to happen.

“Rather than the solid framework we should have had, we instead have one made of matchsticks. It is brittle, unappealing and substantially weakened from the foundations we were expecting. The original document contained ambitious yet achievable plans for North East to play a full role in contributing to UK growth. Clearly Ruth Kelly’s ambitions for this region fall far short of our own. There is now a ten-week consultation on the latest draft and we would call on the region not to sit back and have this strategy for stagnation forced upon us.”

Amendments in the latest version of the RSS which have caused concern for the NECC include a watering down of the case for a deep sea container port at Tees Port, the scaling down of the NETPark centre, and the removal of calls for major investment in key transport routes including the East Coast Main Line, A1, A19, A66 and A69.

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