Trailblazing Teesside has been ignored for too long

Charlotte Griffiths, 25, with her three year old son Robert from Morpeth Northumberland at the Great North Museum in Newcastle, as indoor hospitality and entertainment venues reopen to the public following the further easing of lockdown restrictions in England. Picture date: Monday May 17, 2021.
Charlotte Griffiths, 25, with her three year old son Robert from Morpeth Northumberland at the Great North Museum in Newcastle, as indoor hospitality and entertainment venues reopen to the public following the further easing of lockdown restrictions in England. Picture date: Monday May 17, 2021.

Meet Rachel Sweeney, our North East Reporter

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Teesside has a rich and resilient story.

It starts with 150 years of steelmaking, generations of hard graft, pride and tradition. Steelmaking was the heartbeat of Teesside and when it came to an end, there was an overwhelming grief felt throughout the North East. Generations of men out of work and facing a threat of poverty that we had not seen, some say, since the miners’ strikes.

There was devastation to the point of a funeral procession being held through the streets to mourn the loss of the industry Teesside was built on. Grown men and women crying together and a very real fear for the future.

Fast forward six years and it is a very different picture.

Boris Johnson with new Conservative MP for Hartlepool, Jill Mortimer, and mayor Ben Houchen
Boris Johnson with new Conservative MP for Hartlepool, Jill Mortimer, and mayor Ben Houchen

Locals call it the ‘Ben Houchen Effect’. Since he became mayor, Teesside has seen more investment, development and job opportunity than ever before.

It could be argued that he is the reason Jill Mortimer MP and the Conservatives took that ‘red wall’ Hartlepool seat. It could also be argued that his part in Hartlepool’s political shift was majorly underplayed on a national level. Four of the six seats in the area are now Conservative.

Mr Houchen is bringing jobs and investment to the area; people are seeing that and want more. I dare say if another mayor was in place, the outcome could have been different.

Teesside has become an important business hub. We are told the new Freeport will hugely increase trade and investment in and around port regions. It will create more than 18,000 jobs and generate £3.2 billion for the local economy. It was the first site given Freeport status by the government and will be the largest in the UK, the equivalent of 2,550 football pitches.

As Teesside becomes a key cog in the generation of UK business, up come members of Whitehall to work in a new Treasury hub. This means decision making will take place right here - proper ‘up north’.

Linking us to London this way helps address our region's ongoing issue of transport. For the first time, rail services from Middlesbrough to London are being trialled. They’ll be travelling to and from the Boro’s new £34 million station. Even the airport is seeing growth, in a global pandemic. We have just heard new flights to Portugal are due to start.

Teesside is also making waves in the lucrative energy industry. BP has announced plans to create the UK’s largest blue hydrogen production facility in the Tees Valley, bring in jobs. And, believed to be a world-first, a facility will be set up on Teesside able to recycle all types of plastic. This means more jobs.

The pandemic has not slowed Teesside, in fact, the Novavax vaccine is made on Teesside.

Teesside fell down, dusted itself off and started again. This should be recognised.

The region has been ignored on a national level for too long. That stops now.