THIS week, the Government has set out its National Space Strategy and this affects us more than local people may imagine.

Last week, Durham County Council Cabinet confirmed an investment of nearly £50m in NETPark 3 at Sedgefield, where the North East Space Hub (NESH) is proposing to create the UK’s next space innovation gateway. It will stimulate and grow the space sector in the region.

I heard about this truly encouraging announcement when I was in Westminster at a Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy meeting, when us backbenchers were getting to know the new members of the team following the ministerial reshuffles.

One of those new ministers is George Freeman, who has been appointed to look after science, innovation and research. At the meeting, I asked him to come and see the incredible businesses at NETPark, and I was amazed by the speed of his response as he came to see us as soon as last Friday.

We met representatives from businesses as well as the council, and we were able to educate the minister about local plans for investment in infrastructure and the businesses spoke to him about what they would like to see him focus on.

Mr Freeman has spent a huge part of his life working on business innovation; indeed, he was actually at NETPark 27 years ago when it was just a green field and the plans were being proposed.

His engagement was particularly impressive, and it was fantastic that his first visit since appointment was to us in the North East.

On the same day as Mr Freeman’s visit, I was also delighted to see the new Levelling Up Minister Michael Gove visiting the region. Among many topics, Mr Gove applauded the power of local journalism and, alongside Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen and Lesley Moody, who leads the 3,000-strong North East England Chamber of Commerce, he backed The Northern Echo’s Level Up campaign, which is championing regional success stories and holding the Government to account for its levelling up promises. I join in giving my total backing and praise to the campaign.

As we come out of Covid restrictions and move forward with investment for new high-tech jobs and improving transport links, I see dynamic plans for our region as a shining example that dedication, hard work and communication will be the way forward to grow our economy.

When George Freeman visited the constituency, the new minister said: “One of my top three priorities is harnessing Innovation for Regeneration: to invest around the whole country – not just in the Oxford Cambridge London ‘golden triangle’.

“That’s why I’ve come here to the North East in my first week to signal our support for the world class cluster of science and technology businesses from Teesside through County Durham to Newcastle and Northumberland.

“NETPark is a cluster of world class innovative businesses creating new jobs, opportunities and prosperity for Durham and UK plc. “

Our UK space strategy is ready for lift-off here in the Sedgefield constituency. That is how levelling up will be delivered and how we can be more optimistic for a better future.

Paul Howell is the Conservative MP for Sedgefield