More than £58 million has been invested into the regional economy by a fund set up to support projects which result in new jobs and economic growth.
The North East Investment Fund, which is administered by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), has granted funds to more than 20 schemes, using Regional Growth Fund and Growing Places Fund monies, in the region in the past three years including the development of Stephenson Quarter in Newcastle city centre – the largest regeneration project to take place in Newcastle for more than 10 years.
Jeremy Middleton, Chair of the North East LEP’s Investment Panel, explains: “The North East Investment Fund exists to provide finance to projects which will result in a real boost to the region’s economy, whether that is via the creation of new jobs or through benefits to transport, connectivity and infrastructure. It is a loan finance scheme designed to support projects which meet the minimum threshold size and which can repay the loan, making it available to re-invest.
“As well as supporting 22 separate projects, the fund is already well on the way to achieving its goal of creating at least 2,300 new jobs in Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and County Durham.”
One of the first developments to be allocated funding was the Stephenson Quarter development in Newcastle which will result in the creation of 2,000 jobs and a £100 million yearly contribution to the region’s economy once the project is completed.
Phase one of the Stephenson Quarter development, which was supported by a £1.7 million loan from the North East Investment Fund, included the completion of the 251 room Crowne Plaza Newcastle hotel, the adjacent multi-storey car park and The Rocket – a 35,000 square foot office building.
Support from the City Council and the North East LEP enabled Clouston Group, the developer of the site, to agree funding deals with RBS, Aviva and Galliford Try Construction.
Jeremy Middleton, Chair of the North East LEP’s Investment Panel, said: “The Investment Fund is designed to support projects that will ultimately create jobs and improve the economy of the North East. Stephenson Quarter is an outstanding example of this – the Crowne Plaza Newcastle alone has already led to nearly 200 new jobs and the newly completed Rocket building is now receiving enquiries from North East businesses keen to take up residence in its office space.”
The Stephenson Quarter site is a 10 acre mixed use site and will include the refurbishment of the historic Boiler Shop venue, which forms part of the site of the former Robert Stephenson & Co Locomotive Works. The finished site will also include further commercial space, residential blocks as well as space available for retail and restaurant use.
Alan Schofield, financial director at Clouston Group, explained: “Funding support from the North East LEP helped create the private sector confidence required to unlock critical investment and drive forward the transformation of this important site.
“This project had stalled during the recession but the combination of funding via the City Deal along with the LEP’s support ensured we were able to get on site in 2013 and deliver phase 1 as promised late last year.”
The next phase of development includes the refurbishment of the Boiler Shop to create a characterful event space, scheduled to be finished in July 2016. The Clouston Group’s successful relationship with the North East LEP is continuing with additional funding from the Regional Growth Fund towards the Boiler Shop refurbishment. Clouston Group hopes to continue to work with the North East LEP to unlock further development and create further jobs, within the Stephenson Quarter.
Jeremy Middleton added: “Being a locally-based funder, the North East LEP can easily see the potential of a project like the Stephenson Quarter, which is revitalising this area of the city centre. We’re looking forward to watching the project progress to completion.”
More details on the North East Investment Fund and how to apply can be found on the North East LEP website, www.northeastlep.co.uk.