The QT

Friday 14 June 2024

Eyes and ears

The QT, rounds up the regional stories getting the North East talking this week
We round up the best of the North East’s news and views… so you don’t have to!

ONE FOR THE ROADS: You will find mention of Teesworks elsewhere in this week’s inaugural edition of The QT (welcome to the first Eyes & Ears column by the way!). Another mention must be given following the victory of PD Ports in their legal case with South Tees Development Corporation.

The corporation, headed by Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen, had taken action against PD Ports over rights of access to land on the south bank of the River Tees. Now the High Court in London has found that PD Ports has historic rights across three access routes.

Jerry Hopkinson, executive chairman at PD Ports, said: “We are naturally pleased at the outcome, but disappointed that this action was ever considered necessary by STDC and Teesworks. Despite PD Ports’ desire to resolve the matter outside the courtroom, STDC and Teesworks persisted with legal action that has resulted in no net gain for either side, at a cost of several million pounds for all parties, including the taxpayer, as well as considerable damage to our region’s reputation.”

ANGEL WINGS CLIPPED: New regulation around angel investment poses considerable threat to North East business. Commercial legal firm Square One Law has warned that legislation brought in under the Financial Promotions Act on January 31 threatens to  wipe out the number of eligible female angel investors in the region and reduce eligible male angel investors by almost 70%.

The threshold for “high net worth individuals”, the formal term for angel investors, required an annual income of £100,000 or net assets of £250,000. However, the new thresholds for the ‘angel investment’ criteria will be hiked to require annual earnings of £170,000, or net assets of £430,000.

Vanessa Saleh, corporate solicitor at Square One Law, said: “The rationale behind the changes may be well-intentioned to protect investors, but the impact of applying it could be incredibly damaging for North East start-ups, scaling businesses and the wider economy.”

Vanessa Saleh, corporate solicitor at Square One Law

JOURNEY: DON’T STOP BELIEVIN’: We couldn’t help noticing that there was no one from the North East included on the long list of speakers at the Transport for the North conference in Liverpool on Monday (Feb 5).

A TfN spokesman said: “Due to the distances involved and diary clashes, we did not have everyone we wanted at the conference. But, in regard to the North East, we expect this to not be the case next year when we hold the event in York, which will make attendance in that region easier.”

Is there a better indicator of how we’ve still to go in improving the transport infrastructure than that?

SySTEMic GROWTH: Support is growing for a University Technical College to be established on Teesside. UTCs are government-funded institutions designed to provide education in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) alongside traditional GCSEs and A Levels. UTCs already exist in Newton Aycliffe and Newcastle.

Around 20 Teesside businesses are now supporting the North East STEM Foundation’s efforts to create a third on the back of the growth and investment plans for the area.

SUSTAINABLE GROWTH: KPMG has reported robust figures for the year and Ian Beaumont, office senior partner in Newcastle said there were plenty of regional highlights, including the recruitment and training of graduates from local universities.

“Looking ahead, with elections for the first Mayor of the North East coming up, businesses will be watching closely to see what benefits this brings to the region. This is especially important with the North East’s pivotal role in sustainable energy, and importantly how we attract and retain people with the skills needed for us to make the most of it.” 

ABOUT TYNE: More than £35 million of Government funding for the restoration of the Tyne Bridge has finally been approved nearly two years after it was first promised.

It is hoped that work can start soon so that it can be completed in time for the bridge’s 100th anniversary in October 2028. That’s the good news. The scheme will require two of the bridge’s four lanes to be shut for up to four years.

The Tyne Bridge - Newcastle upon Tyne
The Tyne Bridge is finally looking forward to a much-needed makeover Credit: Maggie Barksby

FANS UNITED: Middlesbrough and Sunderland football fans raised almost £20,000 after they walked from the Stadium of Light to the Riverside, ahead of the Tees-Wear derby match last Sunday.

The funds will help pay for Boro season ticket holder Chris Wood’s treatment, which is unavailable on the NHS. Chris had a major stroke in August 2022 and was hospitalised for almost three months. He now requires specialist neurological rehabilitation.

TIME TO LEGO: The Lego model of Durham Cathedral is being reassembled and will go back on public display from February 19. The miniature version of the 1,000-year-old building uses 350,000 bricks and took three years to build. It was completed in 2016 but was partly dis-assembled and put into storage during the pandemic.

MAKING HAY: Hays Travel is looking to expand by opening up branches in areas it pulled out of during the pandemic. The company has 470 shops and saw revenues increase from £219.4m to £423.5m in 2023. Chair Dame Irene Hays says the company is expecting a busy 2024.

COMPARE THE MARKET: Darlington Market has been named the best small market in the prestigious Great British Market Awards annual event, praised for its “positive impact on the high street, support for local businesses and commitment to fostering community engagement through diverse events.”

Darlington Market — the best small market in the UK. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

NO MORE BOLLARDS: Residents are partying – literally – after Newcastle City Council workmen removed bollards which were part of a low traffic neighbourhood scheme in Jesmond. The council said the decision to end the scheme early was based on feedback about increased congestion on some roads, longer journey times and the impact on businesses. A celebration event was held at Jesmond Cricket Club on Monday.

WARM-UP IN NEWCASTLE: England will face Bosnia and Herzegovina in a friendly match at St James’ Park in June as part of their preparations for the 2024 European Championships. The match on Monday June 3 will be the first time England have played in Newcastle since beating Azerbaijan 2-0 in a World Cup qualifier in 2005.

EXERCISING MINDS: Bosses at Northumberland County Council are being questioned over their decision to replace the charity Active Northumberland, which has run the county’s leisure centres for nine years, with the London headquartered Places for People. The Morpeth and Ponteland leisure centres were recently rated as the best in the country by Sports England’s contract to run the area’s leisure centres.

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