Two new development corporations will be set up to regenerate Middlesbrough and Hartlepool, Michael Gove has announced.

The Levelling Up Secretary was speaking at the Convention of the North in Manchester where major political figures in the North of England were meeting to discuss Levelling Up and regeneration policies.

It was also announced that Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen would get new powers to operate the corporations to revamp both town centres.

Read more: North of England sees 'lowest investment' of advanced economies

Mr Gove cited the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) as inspiration for the potential of the project. The LDDC was an autonomous statutory agency at arms-length from the Government that was responsible for planning and taxation in the area surrounding the River Thames to the east of the City.

Amongst others, it was responsible for the development of the Canary Wharf estate, the Excel exhibition centre, the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and building London City Airport.

Despite criticism at the time, the LDDC is now seen as a critically important body in the regeneration of the former docklands that had seen tens of thousands of job losses in the decades before its foundation in 1981.

“A government that plays a strategic role, irrigating the soil for growth as Mrs Thatcher did," he said, "specifically in the Docklands.

“When the Thatcher government took office in 1979, London’s docklands were a derelict economic desert.

The Northern Echo: The LDDC was responsible for the development of the former docks at Canary Wharf.The LDDC was responsible for the development of the former docks at Canary Wharf. (Image: PA Images)

“The original vision for re-generation of the area, from the Treasury of the time, was simple: just cut taxes and de-regulate and a thousand flowers will bloom in the dusty and contaminated soil of the docklands.”

He added: “One of the most single successes we owe to Mrs Thatcher’s government, and it is that spirit that animates our levelling up policies: active government.”

In a wide-ranging speech which lasted 40 minutes, Mr Gove suggested that the devolved mayoral model - such as that in Tees Valley - should be developed and enhanced.

“As well as deepening devolution we must also broaden it.

“I am very conscious that the mayoral model has its critics and sceptics. I am particularly conscious that communities on the periphery of mayoral geographies sometimes worry that their needs can be overlooked.

The Northern Echo: Tees Valley Mayor Ben HouchenTees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen

“But I do not think there is a tension between Manchester’s success and Bury’s, or Sunderland’s growth and Spennymoor’s, or indeed Newcastle’s prosperity and Blyth’s regeneration.

“Attracting investment to magnet cities is a necessary part of reviving the economic fortunes of satellite towns.

“And indeed, if we unlock the potential of our major cities, then the whole country benefits. Improving the productivity of the nine UK second cities will add billions to the UK economy.”

It's not yet clear how either of the new development corporations would exist in relation to the pre-existing South Tees Development Corporation which is responsible for work on the Teesworks freeport site.

Nor is it clear what additional powers Mr Gove hopes to bestow on mayor Ben Houchen within the new development corporations for Middlesbrough and Hartlepool.

In response to the announcement, Mr Houchen said: "I am delighted that our Mayoral Development Corporations for both Middlesbrough and Hartlepool have been endorsed by the Government.

"We have bold and ambitious plans to supercharge investment in both towns by slashing red tape and delivering faster on priorities.

"We want to make Hartlepool a cultural capital and we've already set a marker down with our vision to make Middlesbrough a place where people want to live, work and study.

"We will have our new Corporations up and running by the end of this financial year - and this backing means the sky is the limit for what we can achieve."


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A major criticism of the LDDC during the 1980s was their undemocratic nature and a perceived lack of political accountability, as they operated in isolation from democratically elected councils. 

LDDC's Deputy Chief Executive Eddie Oliver agreed that they were undemocratic but defended their nature by saying that "it was an extraordinary arrangement for an extraordinary situation".