Deputy prime minister John Prescott this week launched a £12m public-private scheme to develop 50 000 m2 of office space in former coalfield regions.

Prescott launched the scheme called Network Space, a joint venture between English Partnerships and St Helens-based Langtree Group, on Monday at the 1999 Coalfields Conference in Wigan.

English Partnerships and Langtree are contributing £6m each to the scheme, which will develop business space for rent within former coalfield areas. The first five projects will start next year in Salford, Greater Manchester, Newcastle-under-Lyme and Featherstone in Staffordshire, Jarrow in Tyne and Wear, and Barnsley in West Yorkshire.

They will create 1000 jobs in these former coalfield communities.

Prescott said Network Space's investment was in addition to the government's £354m pledge for projects aimed at helping coalfield areas over the next three years.