A £16.5 million programme has been approved to support the long-term recovery of the struggling creative and visitor sectors in Tees Valley.

It will be used to support business resilience, development and growth, attract new events to the region, grow local festivals and events and boost the area’s profile as a visitor destination as it tries to recover from the devastating impact of Covid-19.

It is projected there will be a loss of 48.4 per cent to Tees Valley visitor economy in 2020, while 44 per cent of creative, culture, tourism and hospitality businesses have reported that their businesses may have to permanently close, compared to 28 per cent across all sectors.

A task force was established by Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen, chaired by Annabel Turpin, the chief executive and artistic director of Stockton's ARC.

Mr Houchen said: “As well as protecting people’s health, one of my top priorities during this coronavirus pandemic has been to protect people’s jobs, businesses and livelihoods.

“We did that in the short-term by moving quickly with funding to help our pubs, restaurants, hotels and other public-facing businesses open back up as soon as possible after the first lockdown, but now we need to look to the longer term and make sure these valuable sectors are fit for the future.

“This £16.5million programme is tightly focused to help bring more brilliant events to our region and shore up our businesses, helping them grow in the long term.

"This will not only create jobs and drive growth but making Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool an even better place to live and visit.”

Councillor Shane Moore, the Tees Valley Combined Authority's cabinet lead on culture and tourism, said: “We have great creators, festivals, companies and education establishments working in culture, leisure and hospitality that we can’t afford to lose.

“Now more than ever we need to give people things to look forward to, as well as support those businesses that keep our high streets and communities interesting and local people in jobs. We’ve listened to the people that know their sectors the best and with this new scheme, we can push ahead to get them out of the other side of this pandemic stronger than before.”

Ms Turpin said: “This is a real boost for the sector during challenging times and shows that by working collaboratively we can make an even more valuable contribution to our local economy.

“Our creative and visitor economies in the Tees Valley are tightly linked so it’s fantastic that this new programme recognises and celebrates that."