George Osborne announced a long-term investment fund for regions affected by shale work as part of his plans for a northern powerhouse, to ensure “the shale gas resources of the north are used to invest in the future of the north”.
The pledge will sit alongside a £6bn investment in roads in the north of the country and promises to develop an east to west high-speed rail link, dubbed HS3.
In total, the Treasury will invest £7bn under plans announced in the Autumn Statement, including new modern train carriages on the Transpennine routes to increase capacity by 20 per cent. The proposals form the coalition’s bid to tackle the north-south divide, which Osborne admitted had “eluded governments for generations”.
A large part of the investment plans in the north are focused on science, including a new materials research institute based in Manchester, with centres in Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield forming a key part of the plans. A new innovation centre for aging in Newcastle, a cognitive computing research centre in Warrington and a national college for onshore oil and gas in Blackpool were also announced yesterday.
Almost £80m worth of funding for a new theatre complex in Manchester was also unveiled. The centre will be called The Factory: “Anyone who’s a child of the 80s will think that’s a great idea,” the chancellor said. The coalition has been courting voters in the north for a number of months, ahead of the general election in May.