Cash hope for port pact

PUBLISHED: 03:47 12 December 2001 | UPDATED: 11:01 03 March 2010

BUSINESS and council leaders will learn this week whether their vision for bringing millions of pounds of investment to the region and creating hundreds of jobs will win high-level backing.

BUSINESS and council leaders will learn this week whether their vision for bringing millions of pounds of investment to the region and creating hundreds of jobs will win high-level backing.

Seven councils have teamed up with the region's ports and businesses to form a partnership to promote, Felixstowe, Ipswich, Harwich and the surrounding area as the "Haven Gateway".

They hope the partnership will trigger a multi-million-pound investment in Suffolk and Essex, as well as generating hundreds of jobs, boosting the area's road and rail network and bringing trade and tourism to the region.

The partnership envisaged the Haven Gateway acting as a cash magnet – drawing grants from the

Government and Europe to improve the area's infrastructure and extend the Silicon Corridor down from Cambridge through Ipswich to Colchester and the Tendring district.

Now it is hoping to win top-level endorsement from the East of England Development Agency (EEDA), set up by the Government to bring a new focus to economic development and to build prosperity in the region.

It will meet on Thursday to decide whether to back the Haven Gateway initiative, a move which it is understood would mean more than £100,000 spent on marketing the scheme next year, with more funding expected to come in the years after that.

Vivian Oxley, communications manager for EEDA, said: "The board meeting will be discussing the funding for the next two years for all of its project.

"I can confirm that one of the items that will be discussed is the funding for the Haven Gateway. We do have exact figures, but we won't be able to release them until after the meeting - and even then the final decision on funding will rest with the Government."

The Haven Gateway partnership was launched last year, coinciding with plans for a huge expansion programme at the Port of Felixstowe and the development of a container port at Bathside Bay in Harwich.

It was the brainchild of Tendring district councillor Mick Page and aims to match the economic investment of the Thames Gateway, the largest and most ambitious regeneration initiative in

Europe that has drawn in hundreds of millions of pounds since it started six years ago.

Initial schemes could include upgrading the A12, dualling the A120 between Harwich and Colchester, improving the rail line from Harwich so it can handle more container freight and working on the East-West rail link from Felixstowe to Oxford.

Mr Page said of the partnership: "It's bringing them all together to actually be a cohesive group to be able to lobby the Government with one voice. We want the Government to see the Haven

Gateway as the main artery through to the continent."

Speaking when it was launched, James Hehir, chief executive of Ipswich Borough Council, said: "The whole idea is not just about port activity, it's to do with the whole infrastructure of this area. "If you put the three ports together plus business in the area, it's a massive force. The Haven Gateway is bigger than the rest of Suffolk and most of Norfolk put together.

"Together we can become a force for getting money into the area for increasing employment and work, to get a better infrastructure, better rail and road to feed the ports and to really make ourselves a strong force."

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