Green light for conference centre as Northern Powerhouse gets £556m cash boost

The government today gave its backing to Blackpool’s plans for a 21st century conference centre and hotel at the iconic Winter Gardens as part of a £556m cash boost for the Northern Powerhouse project.

Theresa MayPrime minister Theresa May was using her first regional cabinet meeting in the North West to announce a raft of investment plans.

And the £25m Winter Gardens vision to help restore the resort to re-establish itself as a leading conference destination was on the list of projects highlighted.

Lancashire’s Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is to receive £69.8m in local growth funding in the awards being announced later today.

The PM was also using the regional cabinet meeting to launch her plans for a new ‘modern’ Industrial Strategy for the UK, with her government set to take a more active, interventionist role.

At the heart of the strategy green paper published today is an offer to businesses to strike new ‘Sector Deals’, driven by the interests of firms and the people they employ, to address sector-specific challenges and opportunities.

As part of those deals the government says it is “prepared to offer a range of support, including addressing regulatory barriers to innovation and growth, looking at how we can use trade and investment deals to increase exports, or supporting the creation of new institutions to provide leadership, support innovation or boost skills.”

Mrs May will tell today’s meeting that a truly modern British Industrial Strategy must make the nation a hive of new industries which will challenge the companies and industries of today.

She said: “The Modern Industrial Strategy will back Britain for the long term: creating the conditions where successful businesses can emerge and grow, and backing them to invest in the long-term future of our country.

“It will be underpinned by a new approach to government, not just stepping back but stepping up to a new, active role that backs business and ensures more people in all corners of the country share in the benefits of its success.”

The green paper also sets out technologies where Britain has strengths in research and development which could be supported through the government’s new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, including: smart energy technologies; robotics and artificial intelligence and 5G mobile network technology.

Unveiling the strategy the government said it would build on existing success stories including the Aerospace Growth Partnership, which it said: “has been instrumental in creating one of the world’s best business environments for advanced engineering, design and manufacture - with thousands of people employed in high-skilled jobs.”

Terry Scuoler, chief executive of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, welcomed the announcement.

He said: “This is an important first step towards creating a comprehensive, consistent and long-term industrial strategy that will help Britain adjust to a more globally-focused, post-Brexit economy. “The end result of this process must be an industrial strategy that lives up to the promise of driving different behaviours and outcomes for the British economy. This requires the whole of government working together to support it, with clear leadership from the Prime Minister and her whole cabinet.”