£5 million industrial units development given the green light

Planning permission has been granted for three new large industrial units in Hebburn. The units, which will be built on the Monkton Business Park, are expected to create over 100 jobs.

Washington-based Hellens Group, which is leading the project to create 55,000 square feet (5,110 square metres) of new industrial space, has received £1.27m from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP’s) Local Growth Fund that is helping a range of industrial and commercial infrastructure projects across the North East LEP area along with loan funding of £1.7M from the North East Investment Fund (NEIF), an evergreen loan fund also administered by the North East LEP

Gavin Cordwell-Smith, chief executive at Hellens Group, said: “The development is fantastic news for South Tyneside and the wider region. These new units will offer growing businesses modern manufacturing space with 6-8m eaves height, and good power availability. We will work with prospective tenants to develop the internal layout of the units and offer cost-competitive rates on long term leases. We are tremendously appreciative of the support for the project that we’ve had from both South Tyneside Council and the North East LEP.”

Work will commence on site in September with a target completion date of September 2018. There will be one large unit of 30,000 square feet and two smaller units of 15,000 and 10,000 square feet although there is the option for prospective businesses to combine the two smaller units into a 35,000 square foot facility. The units will come with their own service yards and parking facilities.

Monkton Business Park has rapidly developed into a key business location in South Tyneside. The 16ha site provides a range of office and industrial facilities on the edge of town, on a landscaped setting which forms part of the Great North Forest. The southern part of the site provides a major new office campus, with more than 18,000m2 of speculatively built new office space, while a range of manufacturing accommodation is provided to the north.

The site is located close to the A184 – between the A19 and A1- in close proximity to Newcastle and Sunderland. The location gives excellent access to the regional road network and is well placed to serve manufacturers with supply chains north and south of the River Tyne. Importantly, it is less than 15 minutes away from the planned International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP) and Nissan’s Sunderland car plant.

The site is already home to a number of companies including Siemens, Hitachi Construction Machinery Ltd, Variable Message Signs (VMS) Ltd, Ford Component Manufacturing, Clugston Construction and Kier North along with many others.

Leader of South Tyneside Council, Councillor Iain Malcolm, said: “This is excellent news for South Tyneside, with regional funds from the LEP being used in a targeted way to grow the borough’s business prospects. I’m delighted that funding from LEP’s North East Investment Fund and the Local Growth Fund will enable construction of these much-needed units to get underway this year.”

The £270.4m Local Growth Fund, secured as part of the North East Growth Deal, supports the North East LEP’s delivery of the Strategic Economic Plan, which aims to create 100,000 more and better jobs by 2024. The North East Investment Fund was established as an evergreen loan funding to support capital projects that will lead to job creation.

David Land, Chair of the North East LEP’s Investment Panel, said: “Businesses in our region, particularly growing SMEs, are looking for new, state of-the-art facilities. Hellens Group has a strong track record in delivering projects and this scheme ticks many of the boxes in the LEP’s priorities and objectives, including supporting enterprise and private sector business growth; and strengthening transport, connectivity and infrastructure in the region.

By investing and developing in new infrastructure we can help create more and better jobs for the North East.”

Once built, the three units will be retained by Hellens Group and available to let by way of FRI leases.

Over the past five years Hellens Group has invested in excess of £10 million on a programme of new developments across the North East.

The company has already received a number of speculative enquiries from prospective tenants, from a range of manufacturing companies including both SME’s and larger businesses. Businesses wanting further information on the Monkton Business Park units should contact GVA or HTA Real Estate who are acting as joint agents for the development.

Notes to editors:

About Hellens Group

The Hellens Group based in Washington, Tyne and Wear, includes property, construction and manufacturing businesses with interests throughout the North East and Yorkshire.

The original business (John Hellens (Contracts) Ltd) was founded in 1973 in the North East of England. Focusing at that time on the regeneration of brownfield sites, the company became leading experts in this field throughout the North of England.  Over the years the company has adapted to changing market conditions and has moved into sports and recreation facility construction, land and property development and investment as well as manufacturing of hard landscaping products for the building industry.

In conversation with Paul Butler, chief executive of the North East Automotive Alliance

We asked Paul for an update on the North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA) and what it can offer for businesses in our region.

For those who don’t already know, what is the NEAA ?

The NEAA is an industry-led cluster group established to support the sustainable economic growth and competitiveness of the region’s automotive sector.

It represents and works on behalf of the whole North East automotive sector; whether a company is making cars or components, off-highway or engine manufacture and associated supply chains. Members immediately benefit from the promotion of the North East automotive sector’s capabilities on regional, national and international levels and the network’s ability to connect the supply chain to business opportunities.

Member companies also benefit from leadership and the co-ordination of activities that have mutual benefit. The fact we offer a collaborative network is a compelling proposition for potential investors.

Although the NEAA was only established in March 2015, it is now the UK’s largest automotive cluster and has been benchmarked for cluster management excellence by the European Secretariat for Cluster Analysis.

What is your role and remit in the North East?

Our key objective is to support the sustainable economic growth and competitiveness of the sector in the region, and to overcome barriers to growth by providing:

  • A network to benchmark, sharing best practice and tackling common issues
  • Access to business excellence, skills and training
  • Drive innovation and adoption of new technologies and processes
  • A focal point for collaborative projects and access to funding
  • A voice for the sector and interface with Government bodies
  • Promotion of the sector regionally, nationally and internationally
  • Regionally and nationally aligned strategic objectives, including growth, productivity, digitalisation, supply chain development and innovation and R&D, to name but a few.

You’ve recently signed up your 200th supporter to the NEAA cluster. What makes this landmark so significant?

The NEAA only launched in March 2015 and to have signed up our 200th company participant in such a short space of time is a remarkable achievement. It’s a testament to the value and opportunities we provide our members.

Today the NEAA is the largest automotive cluster in the UK and one of, if not the, fastest growing cluster across Europe. Having such a critical mass makes the NEAA a true representative of the North East automotive sector.

Our research indicates there are approximately 240 companies in the direct supply chain, excluding the excellent services sector companies that support the wider automotive sector. We expect to see NEAA’s membership continue to grow in the future.

What are your ambitions for the NEAA?

In the coming years I can see significant growth opportunities. The recent Nissan announcement (the new Qashqai and the X-Trail SUV will be built at the Sunderland plant) and developments such as the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP) will build on current strengths. We have a world-class workforce and our great transport links to the rest of the UK and Europe mean the North East is a prime location for automotive investment in the UK.

We must also build on our emerging technology strengths. The North East is a leader in the electric vehicle industry and connected and autonomous vehicles, which account for 26% of all Electric Vehicle production across Europe. We are also the only region in the UK where connected vehicles and infrastructure trials are taking place for intelligent traffic management. We are advanced in terms of battery technology, control systems and EV charging networks thanks to continued investment and funding to support these developments here in the North East.

Ultimately our key ambition is to continue to service our members and, through industry leadership, ensure the North East is ready to exploit these growth opportunities for the benefit of the region as a whole.

What can we do to ensure the sector continues to grow?

We must create the right environment to ensure industry receives the necessary support to meet these future growth challenges.

It requires a close collaborative approach from industry, regional and national government, academia and other business support organisations to make it easy for companies to access support in a co-ordinated way.

It will require a step change in the current business support framework, however there is a desire to make this happen. We must look to best practice and learn from our counterparts from across Europe to develop this eco-system.

How is innovation changing the North East’s automotive sector?

The pace of innovation in the automotive sector is unprecedented – both in vehicles themselves and within the factories producing them.

Environmental concerns, such as climate change and city air quality; safety and congestion pressures; and changing customer tastes and model integration, are driving change within vehicles.

The hybridisation of engines and the electric car market is gathering pace but there is still a long way to go. The future is all about developing the range of vehicles so drivers can travel further and charge faster. Lighter cars and bigger batteries are coming. Faster charging is under development too.

Hybrid technologies are also strong in the off highway sector. Komatsu UK recently demonstrated its new hybrid HB365LC excavator at the North East Automotive Expo – a first showing in the UK.

We will also see significant developments around connected and autonomous vehicles. This technology will significantly change the way we interact with our vehicles. Autonomous driving, infotainment, preventative maintenance, modal integration, ride sharing, vehicle communications (with smart infrastructure to improve routing), traffic flow and cyber security are just some of the areas where we can expect change. The expansion of vehicle choices and increased personalisation will bring its own challenges and opportunities for more localised content.

Innovation within the manufacturing process is also a top priority for the sector. The NEAA is supporting members on developments in the factory of the future, including actively looking at Industry 4.0. and how this impacts manufacturing processes. We are currently working with key stakeholders to see how we can further support this area – so watch this space.

How can people support the work of the NEAA?

In order to deliver our vision statement and support the sustainable economic growth and competitiveness of the automotive sector, we need to work with the sector as a whole.

I would say if your company is involved in the direct automotive supply chain or has the propensity to supply the sector then we’d love to hear from you. We’re particularly interested in hearing from SMEs based in the North East LEP region as we have an ERDF funded programme to support the growth and expansion of eligible businesses.

Together we are stronger. To quote Aristotle, ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.’



Nissan’s decision to continue production in Sunderland underlines the quality of the region’s automotive sector

Last week the North East LEP, along with the region’s business leaders and workforce, welcomed the announcement that Nissan will produce its new Qashqai and X-Trail models at its Sunderland plant.

This decision not only secures the jobs of nearly 7,000 people at the Nissan plant itself but also tens of thousands of jobs within the wider supply chain which is linked with Nissan throughout the North East.

Production at Sunderland’s Nissan plant began in 1986 and the first car to roll off the production line was a Nissan Bluebird. During the past 30 years models including the Nissan Micra, Nissan Note and Nissan Infiniti Q30 have all been made in Sunderland and the electric Leaf model has been produced here since 2012. The plant turns out around half a million cars a year and has ambitions to increase production even more, further cementing the region’s reputation as a leader in the automotive industry.

I believe that Nissan’s decision is a clear indication that the North East’s automotive sector is world-class. Cars produced in Sunderland are exported to more than 130 countries and the plant is regularly ranked as the most productive in the UK. It’s an astounding fact that one in every three cars made in the UK is made at the site in Sunderland.

The North East is at the forefront of the automotive industry – not just in the UK but globally – and this is something which the North East LEP will be working to build on, with the advanced manufacturing and automotive sector forming a key part of our strategic economic plan for the region.

The news that Nissan will continue to produce its cars in Sunderland is important for people working in the automotive sector today and it’s also important for young people in the region. It’s vital that the future workforce have good quality career opportunities which they can progress to when they leave education. We’ll continue to work with education providers and local industry to make sure that our young people are equipped with the skills they need to begin their careers here in the North East.

Nissan’s decision is an investment in the North East, an investment in our automotive sector and an investment in the people here who make it a global success story.

Andrew Hodgson, Chair of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership

A refreshed SEP to reflect changing times

Richard Baker, Head of Strategy and Policy at the North East LEP, gives an update on the refresh of our Strategic Economic Plan.

The North East Strategic Economic Plan – or SEP for short – is the region’s road map to economic success.

It is our medium-term economic plan for the North East LEP area.

It sets out clearly how the LEP and the North East Combined Authority support economic growth and details the advice we give to Government about the most important investments needed for our area.

The SEP focuses on the sectors and areas that make our regional economy tick: innovation, business support and access to finance, skills, employability and inclusion, economic assets and infrastructures and transport and digital connectivity.

Like all plans setting out a course of action to reach milestones further down the road, it needs updating to reflect changing times.

The original SEP was unveiled back in March 2014.

It was born out of the evidence base of the Adonis Review of 2012 – and the data which underpinned that report was from two years previous.

The economic data in the current SEP is based on a period when we emerged from recession rather than where we are at now.

A series of new policy documents will impact our future economic planning and decision-making – a national innovation plan, new national infrastructure commission and an emerging devolution deal.

In the light of these shifting sands, the North East LEP board has agreed with the North East Combined Authority that now is the right time to look again at parts of the SEP, taking into account new evidence of the region’s economic position and evolving public policy environment.The SEP refresh is just that.

Not a rewrite, but a look again at how we reach our ambitious target of creating an extra 100,000 more and better jobs by 2024.

We are hard at work on this process.

We are examining with sharp focus our opportunities to be competitive nationally and internationally in the smart specialisation areas and growth sectors.

These are passenger vehicle manufacture, subsea, marine and related advanced manufacturing, life sciences and health and creative, digital software and technology based services.

We are looking to see high levels of productivity in these areas and to work out our position within the Northern Powerhouse to ensure we have the strong profile our region needs to seize maximum advantage from the opportunities it presents.

The views of stakeholders are crucial to our refresh work. They will contribute substantially to the evidence base, credibility and application of the SEP.

We’ll be seeking the views of business, the public and third sectors at a series of workshops running either side of the EU referendum during the summer.

There will also be an online survey for people to feed their views into the refresh process.

Details of how stakeholders can take part in the SEP refresh will coincide with the launch of our engagement activity in June and more information about how businesses can input will be available soon.

These views will be fed into the work to create an updated SEP which will be unveiled later this year.

Two other important pieces of work will support this refresh.

One is an economic analysis paper, which has been independently verified and looks at where we are now, compared to then back in 2014 and the next steps the region needs to take. We would encourage businesses to get in touch if they have more research or evidence to strengthen the economic analysis paper we have produced.

The second is a progress review of SEP delivery to date to show what has been done set against the SEP’s original plans.

The progress review looks right across leadership and governance structures, programme development, resource acquisition and investment.

Our aim with stakeholders is to provide the North East LEP area – from County Durham to the Northumberland – with an updated strategic economic plan which better reflects today while future proofing for tomorrow.

Richard Baker

Head of Strategy and Policy

North East Local Enterprise Partnership

[email protected]

In Conversation with North East LEP Chair and Chief Executive of Subsea Engineering Specialist Soil Machine Dynamics, Andrew Hodgson

It’s been a busy start to March for the region’s energy sector, with some real positives on the agenda for both immediate and longer-term growth.

More than 600 delegates from the worldwide industry were in Gateshead for the NOF annual energy conference at Sage Gateshead on Wednesday, March 10. Although Durham-based NOF badges this as a national conference, it attracts international attendees including delegations from Brazil, Canada and Oklahoma in the US.

The energy industry is a strong sectoral community that supports a lot of jobs in the North East. It’s also one that we’re really well-positioned to benefit from in the future, whether that’s oil and gas, offshore renewables or nuclear. Offshore engineering is one of the LEP’s smart specialisation areas and we’re investing heavily into the riverside infrastructure through the Enterprise Zones adjacent to the rivers Tyne, Wear and Blyth. This excellent deep-water access is vital for companies in the offshore sector.

Some of the NOF conference delegates were able to see our Tyneside facilities first hand, on an Invest North East England-hosted trip along the river. It was a well-received tour, which showcased some of the Tyne’s capabilities and some of the Enterprise Zone investments to a new audience.

Energy is an evolving industry and it’s vital for the region to be at the forefront of innovation if we’re to fully benefit from the more and better jobs it will create in the years ahead. The LEP is supporting the creation of the Neptune National Centre for Subsea and Offshore Engineering on the North bank of the Tyne. The centre, headed by Newcastle University, is the first of its kind in the UK and will lead the development of new technology for the industry.

We also have a very strong supply chain, which is recognised nationally and internationally. There were a lot of conversations at the NOF conference about the strength of the North East’s manufacturing and supply chain and its support of the energy sector worldwide.

We can’t ignore the downward pressure on jobs that has been caused by recent low global oil prices. The view from the NOF conference was that the industry is cyclical and these low prices are not sustainable, and that particularly offshore gas – as well as oil – still has huge growth potential. Plus, there is work available in efficiencies and decommissioning ahead of the upturn forecast by the industry. In the North East, I’m confident that in the long term, this is a sector where there are some really strong opportunities for the region.

In addition to the positives coming out of the NOF conference and some excellent forecasts of longer-term prospects for the region, we’ve also had some welcome news for the sector that will have more immediate benefit for the North East.

After a number of years of talks, the UK Round 3 offshore wind project is beginning to show significant progress with contracts starting to be placed for the planned new wind farms. Three North East companies – Tekmar, JDR Cables and Deep Ocean – are among the businesses to benefit as the programme finally gets underway.

For the oil and gas industry, it could be 12 to 18 months before we start to see signs of a major revival, but the industry is confident there are opportunities for growth on the horizon.

Andrew Hodgson is chair of the North East LEP, chief executive of subsea engineering company Soil Machine Dynamics, and chair of Subsea North East.

In conversation with Innovation Board Member, Dr Colin Herron from electric vehicle consultancy Zero Carbon Futures

The future is electric and the North East is in pole position to take the lead

The widespread adoption of electric vehicles (EV) is something that the North East has been gearing up to for the last six years and it is recognised as one of the North East LEP’s smart spec areas. Since 2013, the manufacture of the all-electric Nissan LEAF has been happening here in Sunderland and many companies, including ourselves, have been working on projects, research and product development surrounding the emergence of this technology.

Change is certainly coming. Latest figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show that electric car sales in the UK are rising at a dramatic rate. There are now on average around 2,400 electric cars registered each month which represents just over 1% of the total new car market.

However, I would argue that we’re nowhere near there yet. The driving range of the current electric vehicles on the market is currently good but not good enough. I have driven 20,000 miles in my Nissan LEAF so I can speak from experience when I say that we need more powerful batteries and faster charging. What I really want is to be able to drive 150 miles on one charge and for a charge to take around 10 minutes. That will be the game changer for electric vehicle sales.

It was therefore a significant announcement made by Nissan at the start of this year that they would be investing in the production of the future generation of electric vehicle batteries at its Sunderland plant. This commitment signals Nissan’s vision for zero-emission motoring and is also great news for the region – safeguarding 300 highly-skilled jobs in manufacturing, maintenance and engineering.

It’s also good for the electric vehicle industry in the region. At the same time, Nissan also announced a new project, supported by the UK’s Advanced Propulsion Centre, which will team the company with partners including Zero Carbon Futures, Hyperdrive Innovation and Newcastle University to work on battery development projects. This project will keep help our expertise to grow.

Of course with more powerful batteries comes the need for increased charging capacity. Charge points are going to need to get better and faster. So this announcement links with another coup for the region. In January, it was announced that the North East Combined Authority has been awarded £1.5 million from the Government’s ‘Go Ultra Low’ programme. The funding will help the region develop the next generation of charging facilities in the shape of new electric vehicle filling stations. The stations, which will be situated on the Science Central development in Newcastle and on the A19 on the outskirts of Sunderland, will echo a conventional fuel station in image incorporating 6 – 8 rapid charge points and perhaps even café facilities making filling up with electricity an acceptable norm. This filling station model will be a first for the UK and it will be something that other cities will be watching with interest.

Having worked in the automotive sector for the last 40 years, there’s never been a more exciting time than now. It’s great that the North East has proven itself to be a forerunner in electric vehicles and these announcements will make sure that we stay ahead of the game when it comes to future developments.

Dr Colin Herron is a member of the North East LEP Innovation Board and managing director of electric vehicle consultancy Zero Carbon Futures

In conversation with Neil Spann, Managing Director of Big Solar

Many people struggle to describe innovation. What does it mean to you?

For me, innovation is about bringing new products or services to market that have the potential to make a difference. It is about not accepting the status quo and finding new ways to solve existing problems.

Can you explain a little about your specific role and what you do?

I am the Managing Director of Big Solar Limited. As a small start-up company this means that the role is pretty wide ranging – including making the tea! I spend most of my time working to raise new funds for the company, overseeing the development progress of our new solar technology, Power Roll, and working to develop relationships with third party suppliers and partners.

What does Big Solar do differently that sets it apart from its competitors?

Big Solar is developing Power Roll, which uses a new and unique method to harness the power of the sun. We are taking a completely different approach to generating solar power that should allow us to produce Power Roll at a fraction of the cost of existing solar panels which are currently largely manufactured in the Far East.

You recently won ENGIE’s Big Pitch UK competition. What does that mean to you and the business?

It was great for Power Roll to be recognised by such a large company as ENGIE. We are now working with ENGIE to see how we may be able to collaborate in the future.

Where does your workforce come from? Is the North East providing people with the right skills to lead this sector forward?

The majority of our Board and indeed the inventor of the Power Roll technology are from the North East. We are passionate about developing what could be a truly global product here in the North East. We have also recruited a research scientist who is from the region. We will continue to try and recruit from the North East talent pool where possible.

What could be done to improve the innovation sector in the North East?

I think the North East LEP is doing a great job in driving innovation in the region but there is always more that could be done, including fostering relationships between small companies working on new technologies with universities and larger corporates. Some specific local funding for innovative technologies would also be beneficial.

What are your ambitions for the renewables sector in the North East?

We would like to contribute to building the Northern Powerhouse although powered by renewable energy! We have some great universities and renewable energy companies in the North East and we can really make a difference.

Paul Woolston responds to today’s Autumn Statement

Today, the North East LEP’s clear vision and ambitious plans for growth contained in its strategic economic plan have again been recognised through Government’s commitment to invest in these plans, to deliver more and better jobs for everyone.

We welcome the Chancellor’s announcements to improve connectivity across the North East, in particular  improvements to the A1 and A19.  Better transport links are critical to growing the economy in the North East, those improved links will also help support and attract investment into the area. We are also delighted with the investment in innovation centre on ageing in Newcastle and the National Formulation Centre. The North East is quickly becoming a leading part of the UK’s innovation story. We have already secured presence of four of the seven national Catapult centres and today’s announcement to locate the National Formulation Centre here is excellent news  building on our investment  through the North East Growth Deal for the Regional Formulation Centre.

We continue to champion the North East at a national level and promote the strengths and success of our partners and their capacity to deliver. The Chancellor’s recognition of this means we will be able to drive momentum in building a stronger regional economy.  However there is still a lot to do  –  in particular around improving the North East skills base and ensuring that we have the right people with the right skills to  build a stronger economy. Support to businesses to take on more young people and apprenticeships is essential and the commitment to make it cheaper to employ young people and easier to take on apprentices is a step in the right direction.

Its important that we continue to lobby for the North East , the announcements to cut public sector funding further will impact on the economy and so its critical that we maintain and build  on momentum to make sure that these plans and investments come to fruition and we continue to bring further investment into the area.

Core event attracts high interest for North East offshore sector

The North East LEP and NewcastleGateshead Initiative jointly organised a North Eastern CORE Showcase event which brought together the Ports of Blyth, Sunderland and Tyne, Narec, the National Renewable Energy Centre, and world-leading offshore energy related companies based in the North East, to promote the breadth of expertise in this sector to investors and business leaders.

The North East LEP area has been identified by central government as one of only six UK CORE (Centres for Offshore Renewable Engineering) areas. CORE areas offer the best infrastructure for offshore wind manufacturing, access to a skilled workforce, supply chain and committed local leadership.

The CORE showcase event was part of a week of events to celebrate Narec’s tenth anniversary.

Senior representatives of private and public sector organisations attended the event, which included tours of key development sites, including the LEP’s North East Enterprise Zone, in the North Eastern CORE.

The first day included presentations hosted by Narec, followed by a tour and a boat trip to view the NOAH Platform, an offshore research platform, three nautical miles off the coast of Blyth. They also viewed the UK’s largest wind turbine before heading back to the Port of Blyth to visit its riverside facilities.

During the second day the group travelled to Newcastle College’s Energy Academy for presentations delivered by the college and Newcastle University’s School of Marine Science and Technology, followed by visits to both the Port of Sunderland and Port of Tyne, ending with a river cruise up the Tyne to view the waterfront development sites, hosted by Andrew Hodgson, vice chairman of the North East LEP and managing director of SMD.

Andrew Hodgson believes the North East is perfectly located for growth in the offshore renewable and subsea sectors. He said: “The North Eastern CORE area has valuable assets which set it apart from the competition. We have generous amounts of available land – for example, 250 hectares at the Port of Tyne and 115 hectares at the Port of Sunderland.

“We have £30m growth capital specifically for investment in the LEP area – probably the largest amount of its type in the UK – and we have world-leading offshore renewable and subsea companies and R&D centres such as the recently launched Neptune centre operating from the region. With active support from the North East LEP and government, a skilled local workforce and a strong supply chain, the North Eastern CORE area has a powerful package to attract international investment.”

Jen Hartley, senior inward investment manager at NewcastleGateshead Initiative said: “The success of this event illustrates the collaboration of the organisations involved to put together an exciting, informative tour for potential investors, in a bid to attract more overseas investment to the region. We’re delighted that so many business and public sector guests attended and enthusiastically took part in all aspects of the busy two day event.”

Further information from Christine Holland, Holland PR & Marketing Ltd. Tel 01670 790246 or 07711 698246