LEADERS of the region's local authorities will today lobby the Government to support a £300m investment in the North-East's biggest port which could create up to 7,000 jobs and transform the region's economic fortunes.

The influential Association of North East Councils (ANEC), which represents the region's 25 local authorities, is now backing the campaign to develop a deepwater container terminal at Teesport - and is lobbying Government ministers for support.

PD Ports wants to make the huge investment, which would allow shipping from Asia to dock and unload on the Tees, creating thousands of jobs and easing freight congestion on the UK's roads.

But the Government recently gave permission for a new port in London - and is considering two similar applications in Suffolk.

PD Ports is asking the Government to halt further developments in the overheated South and develop a ports strategy to allow more investment in the North-East - an argument backed by The Northern Echo through the Support Our Port campaign.

Later today, at the Sage, Gateshead, in front of local government minister and South Shields MP David Milliband, ANEC will unveil its manifesto for the next 12 months - a central plank of which will be a commitment to back the case for Teesport.

The document urges the Government to "fast-track a National Ports Strategy to identify where best to allow the increase in port capacity, in advance of it taking critical decisions on the expansion of south-east ports".

Councillor Mick Henry, chairman of ANEC, said: "We very much support the campaign being run by The Northern Echo, which will help the whole region.

"What we are saying is that this investment is vitally important, not just to the future of Teesport and the Tees Valley, but also the whole of the wider region."

Martyn Pellew, group development director at PD Ports, said he was delighted at the support by the 25 local councils.

He said: "The manifesto they are launching today I am hopeful will put this support into black and white, and that will be very useful to our campaign.

"In particular, next week I am going to the Labour Party conference to lobby MPs and hopefully ministers about the case for Teesport, so the manifesto launch is very timely, because I hope it will show ministers the strength of support we have in the region."