Sunderland’s Vaux site plans have been singled out as a blueprint for the future in a national report.
‘The Making of an Industrial Strategy: Taking back control locally,’ by independent thinktank Localis, identifies 30 local authorities - including Sunderland - it says are still dealing with the fallout of the industrial changes of the 1980s and looks at what extra powers they need to make the most of their potential.
One suggestion is giving authorities a statutory right to propose moves for public sector departments: “Places should be proactive in establishing public service hubs for parts of the public sector to relocate to,” says the report.
“For instance, Sunderland City Council is speculatively redeveloping new office space at the former Vaux brewery.”
Localis chief executive Liam Booth-Smith said: “Some parts of England haven’t recovered from the economic trauma of the 1980s.
“These, the most ‘stuck’ economies in the country, are of increasing political importance.
Some parts of England haven’t recovered from the economic trauma of the 1980s.Liam Booth-Smith
“Not only are they the beating heart of Brexit Britain, but home to a new wave of battleground parliamentary seats.
“We need to expand economic policy out from big cities to small town England. Our report is a roadmap for turning a national industrial strategy into local economic renewal.”
The report also identifies the top 28 ‘stifled’ areas of the country, whose ability to expand their economy is pegged back by lack of room to grow and calls for the immediate establishment of 47 strategic authorities – including one for Tyne and Wear - across England.
These authorities would be granted a range of economic and fiscal powers, through an ‘industrial compact’, allowing them to compete globally - in the biggest single domestic transfer of power since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.
Key recommendations include giving authorities the right to vet and process all work and study visas; powers to grant planning permission on sites of industrial importance, and making them responsible for developing long-term transport strategies and exercising control over bus and suburban rail services.