Ambitious plans have been outlined and the strategy refreshed in light of the additional opportunities from the new North of Tyne Combined Authority, the developing Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal and the national Industrial Strategy.
The draft document for 2019 to 2024, which was approved at today’s (Tuesday, December 11) meeting of the county council’s cabinet, focuses on six major areas of industrial opportunity in Northumberland.
These are energy, offshore, wind and sub-sea; agri-tech; tourism and culture; rural scale-up; healthcare and life sciences; and advanced manufacturing.
Coun Richard Wearmouth, cabinet member for economic development, said: “We are moving away from the previous approach of building more homes and hoping that creates jobs by focusing on key sites and areas as well as supporting our town centres.”
The foreword of the new framework begins: ‘Northumberland is the place for prosperity, a county with international leaders in industry, investment-ready locations, innovative people, welcoming communities and globally-significant culture and landscapes.’
Referring to this, Coun Cath Homer, cabinet member for culture, leisure and tourism, said: “It’s really upbeat and fantastic statement about Northumberland.”
She described the strategy as ‘aspirational but realistic’, ‘setting out the challenges the county has, but also how we are going to deal with those’.
Coun Wayne Daley, the council’s deputy leader, added: “This is about joining things up. This is about the first time we have had an overall strategy or even some joined-up thinking in this council.
“It’s ambitious, but there’s no harm in being ambitious. We have got to stop talking down our county and our region.”
The vision for Northumberland, which is already home to more than 100,000 employees and more than 11,000 active businesses, is ‘to be a propserous, inclusive and connected community’.
The objectives to deliver this vision are to grow the business base, by focusing on the six key areas listed above; to develop inclusive employment; and to ensure towns and communities are productive places economically.
Beneath the vision and objectives are the six priorities for delivery – industrial growth in key areas; develop a skilled workforce; connect the county; support enterprise and development; enable an inclusive economy; invest in towns and communities.
Council leader Peter Jackson was not at the meeting, but has backed the refreshed strategy.
“There are so many opportunities to grow our economy over the coming years, with regional and cross-border working,” he said.
“This plan clearly sets out what we hope to achieve with our partners and communities to ensure we stay strong and prosperous, not just over the next five years but well into the future.”
Coun Wearmouth added: “Northumberland’s position as an economic force shouldn’t be underestimated.
“We are a base for nationally significant industrial growth, home to leading global industries and we’re well-placed to deliver against the ambitions of the national Industrial Strategy.
“The county has businesses operating in globally competitive supply chains, and unique assets for large-scale investment linking into the wider economy of North of Tyne, including major employers on Tyneside, and innovation and skills assets, including our world-class universities.
“However, we know that to continue to flourish we need grow our business base, support inclusive employment and ensure our towns, villages and communities are places that can deliver and support employment. This is what we’re committed to delivering over the next five years.”
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service