AN URBAN regeneration guru has returned to his North-East stamping ground to help businesses and public sector bodies bid for a share of a dwindling pot of development money.

During his time as director of regeneration and tourism at One North East, John Holmes, 55, was one of the driving forces behind some of the region's landmark regeneration projects including Middlehaven in Middlesbrough and Central Park in Darlington.

After three years as Chief Executive of inward investment body Hull Forward, Mr Holmes, who hails from West Cornforth, County Durham, has set up his own North-East based business consultancy, Urban Matters, to share his expertise with local authorities and private firms.

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Among his objectives is to help bidders negotiate the minefield that surrounds the Governments Regional Growth Fund, which is currently accepting second round applications. The culling of the likes of One North East has, Mr Holmes believes, weakened the region's ability to attract inward investment, while creating an opportunity for agencies such as Urban Matters. "I personally find it very sad to see a lot skills and knowledge dismantled with the demise of the Regional Development Agencies," said Mr Holmes.

"But I am a great optimist and you have to seize opportunities. There is still a big job to be done and life doesnt stop. You hear fairly generic statements from the Government about rebalancing the economy and that the private sector will pick up the slack; if only life was that simple.

"Local authorities are going through some awful times following the spending cuts, but projects still need to be taken forward, securing investment remains a competitive challenge, and growth sectors need to be nurtured. "I have been privileged to be involved with some of the North-Easts biggest regeneration and economic development projects so its great to be spending more time back in the region and having the opportunity to play a part in the regions development again, this time as my own boss.

"I care greatly about this area and thats why I had no hesitation in coming home. Im really enjoying running my own business but what Im also keen to do is join forces with other professionals and business associates to identify opportunities which will ultimately benefit the North-East, a region which has so much potential and resilience."

Mr Holmes, a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, also works as an associate consultant to specialist management consultancy Genecon which supports Government, local authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships and the private sector in delivering local economic growth.