UK tries to lure China into investing $6bn in “Northern Powerhouse” schemes

With Brexit looming the UK is hoping to tempt China into investing in 13 large-scale regeneration schemes in the north of England, together worth about £5bn ($6.2bn).

Business hubs, thousands of homes, infrastructure and even the expansion of the BBC’s northern base in Salford are on the wishlist and, to facilitate the hoped-for cash injection, officials will offer to train Chinese companies on investment processes in the UK.

I’m determined that as we leave the EU, we build a truly global Britain that is open for business– Theresa May, UK Prime Minister

Two days of talks are scheduled between Philip Hammond, the UK chancellor of the exchequer, and Chinese Vice Premier Ma Kai under the auspices of the annual UK-China Economic and Financial Dialogue event.  

The Chinese delegation will also meet Prime Minister Theresa May and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney to discuss forging a stronger strategic partnership.

May is keen to show that the country’s imminent secession from the EU trade bloc is an opportunity to forge independent relationships with other partners.

"I’m determined that as we leave the EU, we build a truly global Britain that is open for business," the prime minister said.

"That is the message I took to India this week, and that’s the message I will be giving Vice Premier Ma Kai on his visit to the UK."

The UK is eager to attract Chinese investment for big schemes and ministers have prepared a "Northern Powerhouse Investment Portfolio" which details 13 property and infrastructure projects, each worth more than £100m, that are mostly concerned with regenerating former industrial areas. They include:

  • Doubling the size of the 81ha MediaCityUK development in Salford, which is used by the BBC, ITV and more than more than 250 smaller creative and digital businesses.
  • The £100m Future Carrington development in Trafford, Manchester. This is a redevelopment of a Shell processing plant and the Carrington Business Park that may create 14,000 jobs and contribute £720m to the economy.
  • The £200m Kampus project in Manchester city centre to create a "bohemian" neighbourhood near the city’s Gay Village. This will included 500 apartments and a "secret garden".
  • A business hub in Stockport town centre to be called the Stockport Exchange.
  • A part of the £5bn Liverpool Waters regeneration scheme, which aims to transform the city’s northern docks.
  • Another Liverpool regeneration in the Pall Mall area. This will deliver 1,000 homes.
  • The Protos project in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, will involve the construction of a gas-fired power station as well as industrial and rail developments.
  • The AeroCentre regeneration project in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, will create 3,100 homes and 6,000 jobs and a Sheffield project to create a centre of innovation and more than 4,000 homes.
  • An advanced manufacturing district in Sheffield that envisages a 2,000 acre centre of excellence for advanced manufacturing in metals and materials. More than 4,000 new homes will also be built.
  • A mixed-use neighbourhood of 1,050 homes in the Kirkstall Forge area of Leeds.
  • The Sirius Minerals scheme in North Yorkshire, which involves digging polyhalite ore in Whitby and transported it by conveyor underground through a 37km-long tunnel to Teesside.
  • The Unity regeneration and infrastructure project in Doncaster. This hopes to create 3,100 homes, a transport interchange, a power station and a materials recycling facility.
  • A mixed-use redevelopment of the former Vaux brewery in Sunderland.
  • In London, Chinese developers CITIC and ABP will together invest £320m in the first phase of the £1.7bn London Royal Albert Docks project. When complete, the project is expected to create 30,000 jobs and become a commercial hub of a comparable scale to the City of London and Canary Wharf.

In return, the UK is to invest £40m in the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. This will be earmarked for a fund to help developing countries prepare infrastructure programmes.

A UK government statement said: "The UK is only the second contributor to the fund after China, which aims to accelerate much-needed development in the poorest Asian countries, and cements Britain’s reputation as China’s key partner in developing the AIIB."

Finally, a private sector UK Infrastructure Academy is being launched to help train Chinese companies and officials on investment processes in the UK. The first high-level Chinese delegation will arrive in the UK for training in coming months.

Image: Media City Salford was given permission in September to double its size (MediaCity)

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