Duke of York agrees to act as ambassador for northern regeneration initiative on trips abroad
The duke of York has been drafted in to raise the profile of the Northern Way, the initiative to regenerate a wide swath of northern England.
The plan to even up growth imbalances between the North and South, announced by deputy prime minister John Prescott in autumn 2004, has attracted £100m in funding but there has been insufficient revenue to run some projects.
Sir Graham Hall, the chairman of Northern Way, said Prince Andrew had agreed to promote the role of the North when carrying out his overseas visits for the UK Trade and Investment agency. Hall said: "He has agreed that he will have a Northern Way representative on his international visits."
Hall and the prince met while working on the York Central regeneration initiative. The Northern Way team outlined its work to the prince at a meeting late last year.
Hall admitted that the Northern Way's £100m growth fund had not been matched by sufficient revenue funding to start capital projects. He said: "This has not been easy or quick to resolve," adding that the regional development agencies had provided £10m of extra revenue to cover the shortfall.
Richard McCarthy, the director of sustainable communities at the ODPM, said that the government remained committed to the Northern Way plan.
The prince has agreed to have a representative on visits abroad
Sir Graham Hall, Northern Way
He said: "It is getting better, but it is not getting better fast enough; we have further to go."
Recent Office for National Statistics figures have shown that the North's economy grew from £200m to £211m over the past two years, outpacing other European regions.
McCarthy also said the northern regional development agencies should make the Northern Way the key focus of activity.
Steve Broomhead, chief executive of the North West Development Agency, warned that it would be a "big mistake" to expect a large spending increase to support the Northern Way in next year's Comprehensive Spending Review, He said: "We should be making the case to government that you should be bending your resources to the Northern Way growth strategy."