Buy back Durham Tees Valley Airport

This headline-grabbing initiative was greeted with some scepticism and even surprise – a Conservative candidate effectively pledging to nationalise an airport – although it quickly won support with voters.

With negotiations reaching the stage of a “non-disclosure agreement”, Mr Houchen is promising an announcement “within weeks or months” about how the combined authority would take control of the airport with a private operator coming in to run it.

A new garden town

Mr Houchen said: “Coming from Yarm, I’ve seen developers attack our local towns and villages, so a new development of a garden town or villages would soak up that excess demand. We have identified five sites across the Tees Valley that would be viable for a new settlement.”

Three of the five sites are capable of taking a “garden town” of 10,000 houses, and two of them could accommodate a “garden village” with 5,000 houses. The locations of the sites have not been revealed due to the early stage of the project, although there isn’t land in urban Middlesbrough for such a development and Redcar is thought to be unlikely.

“This type of development, two villages or a town, will suck up a huge amount of demand for the next 30 years,” said Mr Houchen. “It is a seismic change, and it will enable people to protect the inherent environment of their local area.”

Reform of Cleveland Police

Mr Houchen promised to set up a commission to look into the future of the force, which would include the option of disbanding it altogether after a series of scandals.

He said: “Things have stalled as I was trying to gain consensus from the Police and Crime Commissioner and Cleveland Police, so I’m back to the drawing board. The commission will definitely happen, and I will come forward with proposals in 2019."

To create a one stop shop for business advice and investment

Two of today’s announcements – the £15m investment fund and the careers initiative – are, Mr Houchen says, the “final pieces in the jigsaw” of the combined authority becoming the promised one stop shop, fitting alongside a £1.3m apprenticeship scheme and the Business Compass support organisation.

He said: “If you want money to start a business or some consultancy or marketing or website help, you would come to us and we have the expertise to help.

“There are different funds that we, as experts, can point businesses in the direction of, and hold their hand as they go through the process, and the announcement of our SME fund is the final piece in this jigsaw.”

Save the parmo

Mr Houchen's pledge to get Protected Designation of Origin status for the deep-fried, breadcrumb-coated chicken escalope, which has cheese and béchamel toppings, was controversial because of its frivolity. But it showed politics was fun and it got people talking about the identity of the region.

The “parmo” was developed on Teesside after the Second World War as a late-night snack, but has now been embraced by top notch restaurants.

Mr Houchen said: “It was nice to see it mentioned on BBC Masterchef programme as Teesside street food, and our package is now going forward to get the status the parmo deserves.”