ONLY a successful Newcastle can bring prosperity to the North-East after last year's resounding rejection of an elected assembly, according to a key devolution supporter.

Lord Haskins said a thriving 'city-region' based on the North-East's capital was the only way forward after voters rejected the idea of an assembly.

Speaking at Westminster, the former advisor to Prime Minister Tony Blair said people living in County Durham and the Tees Valley should see a successful Newcastle as a positive development, rather than a threat.

Lord Haskins, who headed the similarly unsuccessful Yes 4 Yorkshire campaign, said: "I like the idea of a city-region, where you build strong cities then strong communities around them, that feed into them.

"How far is it from Durham to Newcastle? It's not very far.

"We need to rebuild local authorities. One hundred years ago, the growth of Britain was built on strong municipalities, such as Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham."

Lord Haskins spoke two months after North-East voters rejected the Government's devolution plans by 78 per cent to 22 per cent in a referendum.

Even before that, deputy prime minister John Prescott had cancelled a planned referendum in Yorkshire as defeat also appeared to be inevitable.

Lord Haskins, a former chairman of food manufacturer Northern Foods, echoed the conclusions of a Government report last month, which found that Newcastle could 'unblock' low performance around it.

However, the Core Cities report said England's big cities needed to do more to stimulate their surrounding regions by building closer links with them.

It said the big cities must recognise that they were thriving on "assets they cannot themselves provide", which came from their surrounding areas.

Those assets included a larger workforce and skills base, space for infrastructure such as airports and shopping centres and leisure and countryside opportunities.

The Northern Way growth strategy, launched in September, also identified the big cities as the best route to economic growth across the North.

However, Lord Haskins said he believed it was a mistake to include Newcastle in the strategy, which should instead have concentrated on the Yorkshire-Lancashire corridor.

He said Newcastle had very different interests to Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds and appeared to have been added for political reasons.