Jeremy Hunt has hailed plans to build world-class film studios on the banks of the Wear as the biggest announcement for the area since Nissan came to Washington.

The Chancellor said the project would be “totally and utterly transformational” for the region and was "compelling" evidence of levelling up after a report from MPs today said there was no such proof.

He joined PM Rishi Sunak on a visit to Sunderland University’s media centre to talk about the Crown Works Studios development backed through grants he announced at last week’s budget.

Mr Hunt told local media: “I think this is the biggest announcement that we’ve had for Sunderland since the Nissan factory actually.

The Northern Echo: Jeremy Hunt.Jeremy Hunt. (Image: PA)

“It’s a huge moment and it’s basically saying that Sunderland is going to be a global giant in an entirely new industry, one that’s growing incredibly fast, one that the UK does incredibly well. We’ve become Europe’s largest film and TV production centre and we’re on track to be second only to Hollywood.

“If we’re going to fulfil that dream, which is a brilliant thing for the UK, then we have to spread outside London and the South East which has got enormous talent but is also very expensive, and that’s why this is very strategic for the UK as well as being brilliant for Sunderland.

“If you think about the time it took for the decision by Nissan to build their factory up here and the extraordinary benefits that that has reaped over many, many years this is the start of that process in an entirely new industry and it’s incredibly exciting for Sunderland.”

He said the project was “compelling evidence” of levelling up after a report by MPs on Friday found “astonishing delays” in delivering projects and said the Government had no compelling evidence of what had been achieved.

The Chancellor continued: "Since 2019 two thirds of all new employed jobs in the UK have been outside London and the South East. Levelling up is also about a mentality that says our country’s economic future cannot be one in which all the best paid jobs are concentrated in London and the SE but of course it takes time to turn that around."

Jeremy Hunt last week announced £37m of grants plus a new “trailblazer” deal with the new North East Mayoral Combined Authority (NEMCA) which will give local leaders powers to help deliver the regeneration project on the banks of the Wear.

It’s thought NEMCA will use £25m of this funding on the Crown Works site.

The Northern Echo: The proposed Crown Works site on the banks of the Wear in Sunderland.The proposed Crown Works site on the banks of the Wear in Sunderland. (Image: PA)

But the Chancellor refused to commit to backing the project with further investment if costs spiral due to inflation, as has been seen with other major schemes.

“I am very much hoping that if you look at the inflation projections this project will very much happen in a period where we are back with properly lowered sustained inflation,” he said.

The project is being spearhead by ‘Sunderland ‘til I Die’ producers Fullwell73 and Cain International, known as FullwellCain, who will invest £450m.

The site will be one of the largest film-making facilities in Europe and could employ 8,000 people.

Leo Pearlman, Managing Partner of Fulwell 73: "Crown Works Studios will help transform Sunderland into a global hub for big budget film and TV production - and enable the North East to play a leading role in our most exciting sector.

“This funding will kick start a project that will eventually bringing an annual economic boost of £336m to the North East - while also enhancing the UK's studio capacity to help us remain globally competitive.”

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Hunt and Sunak got behind the cameras in the University’s TV studio and recorded a jingle for its student run radio station Spark. Vice Chancellor Sir David Bell said the project would give film students the chance to stay in our region to pursue their careers.

Mr Sunak was asked to re-record his message, saying: “Hello Sunderland, this is the Prime Minister Rishi, and you are listening to Spark.”

After he did his recording first time, Mr Hunt joked: “What’s the fee?”

The Northern Echo: Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and PM Rishi Sunak turn the tables on the media as they get behind the cameras.Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and PM Rishi Sunak turn the tables on the media as they get behind the cameras. (Image: PA)

Sir David said: “We are very pleased to welcome the Prime Minster and the Chancellor to the University and to be able to demonstrate the excellent teaching and facilities on offer for students preparing for jobs in the creative sector.

“For our award-winning film production students - a product of courses regarded as some of the best in the county - the Crown Works project represents a chance to fulfil their potential while remaining in, and contributing to, the North East.