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North East: resilience and renewables are the future

Region is “upbeat and resilient” despite spending review cuts

Senior industry and business leaders in the ICE North East region are upbeat and positive about the future and are touting its potential as a renewables hub.

An audience of more than 80 gathered for ICE North East’s “Question Time” style panel event in Newcastle to discuss the impact of the Comprehensive Spending Review earlier this month on the North East’s construction
industry.

Disappointment

October’s review and subsequent announcements from the Department for Transport were met with disappointment by many in the region including ICE North East. Out of 24 transport schemes that were given the green light to proceed immediately, no North East projects were included, and many projects considered key to the region were listed as needing “further analysis”.

“On the face of it, the North East had little to celebrate in the Government’s spending plans, but we must show resilience and focus on moving forwards - we must make the very best of the opportunities that are presented to us,” said panel member Andrew Sugden from the North East Chamber of Commerce.

The panel considered that the DfT’s announcement on approved transport schemes could in fact create a fairer chance and opportunity for smaller projects such as the Tees Valley Metro, as these projects will now be bidding for funding from the Regional Growth Fund and not competing for funding with the larger scale projects.

Potential

The panel agreed there was genuine potential for the North East to become a major hub in the increasingly important renewables market.

“The first projects are starting to appear in our region, however, it will be some time between the announcement of some of the future schemes and work starting on site, which represents a concern for the contracting industry,” said Tees Valley Unlimited senior assistant director Jonathan Spruce.

“Clients, consultants and contractors must work together in the short term to ensure that we value and risk manage those projects that are going ahead.

“We also need to ensure the next generation of civil engineers is equipped with the skills to lead the renewable energy market.”

ICE North East regional chairman Jason Boddy said he was encouraged to see so many built environment professionals collaborating to find a way forward despite the current financial constraints.

“The tone of the event was surprisingly upbeat and showed resilience among those in the North East in tough times,” he said.

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