Political wrangling delays scheme that could create 11,000 North East jobs

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A POLITICAL row has broken out over the location of a North East enterprise zone worth hundreds of millions to the region.

Chancellor George Osborne unveiled plans for a new North East Urban Enterprise Zone, one of 21 across the country, in his Budget speech in March.

The exact location of the zone was to be decided in consultation with the newly-established North Eastern Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)

But now a row has erupted between members of the LEP over two possible plans for the zone.

Five councils – Sunderland, Durham, North and South Tyneside and Northumberland – are backing proposals for a zone along the A19.

This would build on the success of the region’s existing low carbon economy, and is expected to create 11,000 jobs from Blyth to Murton.

Newcastle and Gateshead, however, are supporting an alternative plan which would concentrate on city centre renewal, with a new shopping district for Newcastle, a new town centre for Gateshead and development of the Farringdon Row, Stadium Park and Vaux brewery sites in Sunderland, expected to create more than 32,000 jobs.

Now it has been reported the timetable for submitting the plans has been extended after consultation with the Government.

The five councils backing the A19 corridor plan had expected their scheme to be submitted for approval this week but the deadline has reportedly been extended after talks between LEP interim chairman Paul Walker and the Department for Communities and Local Government.

It is understood Mr Walker decided to intervene after members of the business community raised concerns over the plans. The decision has reportedly been delayed until business leaders have been appointed to the LEP.

Sunderland City Council, which is lead authority for the LEP, declined to comment on the reports. It is understood the LEP will meet on Friday to appoint seven new private sector members to its board.

The LEP is the successor body to regional development agency One North East and includes all the North East councils, from Northumberland down to County Durham, with the exception of Tees Valley.

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