Fears that Rishi Sunak could be throwing billions of pounds of North East investment plans into chaos with his announcement of a zet zero rethink have been met with defiance.

The Prime Minister confirmed that the date for when new petrol and diesel cars can no longer be sold in the UK will be pushed back from 2030 to 2035, after fears that costs to normal drivers will be too high and that the electric charging infrastructure will not be ready.

Rishi Sunak said that sticking with the status quo on climate pledges would risk losing the consent of the British people and told voters worried about switching to electric vehicles, adding: "I also think that at least for now, it should be you, the consumer that makes that choice, not Government forcing you to do it, because the upfront cost still is high, especially for families struggling with the cost of living."

But with so many projects choosing Teesside as their base to develop alternative fuels and a battery manufacturing revolution, the ripple effect of the announcement could be substantial.

The region has come out fighting, as committed as ever to its future as the capital of green energy.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said key projects were already 'baked in', adding: "Teesside certainly isn’t taking any step back from the clean growth agenda.

"We are leading the way in this sector having already secured billions of pounds of private investment on the Teesworks site from green industry.

"The PM is absolutely right that we have to meet our targets responsibly and in a way that benefits everyone in the UK and that is exactly what we are doing on Teesside. Bringing new industry that also provides good quality local jobs to local people.

"These projects are baked in and will bring progress to our area for years to come.

The Northern Echo: Tees Valley Mayor Ben HouchenTees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen (Image: Newsquest)

"Teesside industry has led the way for centuries and we will continue to forge our own path towards the industries of the future."

Rhiannon Bearne, North East England Chamber of Commerce executive director, said this was a time for 'ambition'.

She said: “The climate crisis isn’t going away, and the North East business community is already leading the way in the low carbon transition.

"Significant changes in the national policy framework – especially reversals or delays – will greatly undermine the ability of businesses in the North East to grow and invest in their net zero strategies.

The Northern Echo: Rhiannon BearneRhiannon Bearne

“We need certainty and clarity from government on its policy direction, a willingness to tackle the big issues like infrastructure, and incentives to encourage the green sector to grow. Now is the time for ambition not indecision.”

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Sir Simon Clarke said businesses relied on certainty to make major investments.

He said: "Our climate is changing dramatically. The UK has carved out a world-leading role delivering net zero in a market-friendly way that will deliver clean, secure energy and thousands of jobs in deprived communities like Teesside. My Red Wall constituents overwhelmingly support it.

“We should be exceptionally careful of seeking to extract political advantage on this issue when the efforts of successive Prime Ministers - the majority of them Conservative - have been dedicated to upholding what Margaret Thatcher called a “full repairing lease” on our planet.

Read more:

“Businesses rely on certainty to make major investments like that just secured from Tata in Somerset. It is unclear how they are to plan at all if we respond to one byelection in west London by tearing up key planks of government policy.

The Northern Echo: Simon ClarkeSimon Clarke (Image: PA)

“When the history of this period of Conservatives government is written, our leadership on climate issues will be one of our main achievements. We are fortunate to have a broad, non partisan consensus in the UK. How does it benefit either our country or our party to shatter it?

“I am very clear: the delivery of net zero should not be a hair-shirt exercise. But I am equally clear that it is in our environmental, economic, moral and (yes) political interests as Conservatives to make sure we lead on this issue rather than disown it."

Further North, the Australian business taking over the doomed Britishvolt operation in  Northumberland exclusively told The Northern Echo their plans were on target and would not be affected.

David Collard, founder of Recharge Industries told us: "This has no effect on our plans, our batteries will serve customers in both the automotive and static storage sectors plus export and domestic opportunities so we are well positioned and diversified.

"Are we on course? You bet, never count an Aussie out especially one who’s from New York."