A BOLD bid to create 1,500 jobs at a North-East airport has been handed a lifeline by the Government.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will today launch another round of the Coalition's flagship job creation fund. Bids of £1m or more are being invited to apply for a share of the £350m pot set aside by Chancellor George Osborne to support private sector projects in hard hit areas.
Durham Tees Valley Airport chiefs were dismayed last October when the Government rejected its application for £5.9m from the Regional Growth Fund (RGF) to build a huge freight operation on land south of the passenger terminal.
Owner Peel Holdings had hoped the project, which would take ten years to complete, could provide a huge boost for the site, which nearly went out of business last year amid falling passenger numbers.
Robert Hough, chairman of Durham Tees Valley Airport confirmed last night that a new bid will be lodged.
"We are obviously very pleased that the Government has decided to open a further round of the Regional Growth Fund and we hope it will give us the opportunity to progress with our plans for the development of the Southside project at the airport," he told The Northern Echo.
"When the Chancellor announced (in December) that the Government would be going ahead with a further round of the Regional Growth Fund we did make clear that we would be resubmitting the bid for the infrastructure works needed for the development of the Southside project.
“The Government has stressed the important role for Local Enterprise Partnerships and we look forward to working with Tees Valley Unlimited and our local authorities in examining how we can ensure that the Southside development is seen as an important element in the overall strategic plans for the area.
“Since becoming the majority shareholder in the airport a year ago we have made clear that it is vital for the future of Durham Tees Valley that we develop the full potential of the whole site and funding through the Regional Growth Fund would enable us to provide a link between the existing airport activities on the north side of the runway and the new employment land to the south.
“Whilst there are a wide range of possibilities for attracting businesses related to aviation support activities, we expect that a likely key element in the development would be logistics services, given the proximity to the A66, leading to the A1 and the national motorway network.”
The three previous rounds of the RGF have pledged cash to support North-East firms such as Nissan in Sunderland, Redcar iron and steel maker SSI and Eaglescliffe car parts manufacturer Nifco UK. Critics have accused the government scheme of being under-funded; favouring blue chip companies over small firms and for delaying cash payouts. The total up for grabs this time around is worth only about a third the amount in earlier RGF rounds, prompting concerns that it will have minimal impact on growth.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg defended the scheme when he said: "The Regional Growth Fund is already proving a shrewd investment by providing a welcome boost to jobs and growth across the country, with thousands of jobs created, businesses expanding into new markets and manufacturing new products. With this next round of funding, I would urge England’s budding businesses to produce top quality bids to access the money that can help them grow.
“There’ll be stiff competition, and we can only invest in those projects that will lead to sustainable jobs and the best value for money. Boosting jobs and growth is our number one priority for Britain right now. That is why I am so pleased to be opening a fourth round of the Regional Growth Fund which supports growth across a range of industries.”
Round four of the RGF will be open for applications until noon on March 20. The winning bids are expected to be announced in June.
Potential applicants are being invited to attend events in their region for support and further help with the application process. Gateshead will host a support event on February 20.
For more information on how to apply visit www.gov.uk/understanding-the-regional-growth-fund