Budget pledge could see A63 Castle Street upgrade for Hull
What does the budget mean for Hull and East Yorkshire? Angus Young, Catherine Lea & Sophie Jane Evans examine the highs and lows ...
A PLEDGE by Chancellor George Osborne to increase infrastructure spending could signal a long-awaited green light for the £160m Castle Street upgrade in Hull.
In his Budget speech, Mr Osborne announced another £3bn for infrastructure projects from 2015 to stimulate economic growth.
They will be funded from further savings across Whitehall departments.
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He said: "By investing in the arteries, we will get growth flowing to every part of the country."
The move immediately raised hopes that a funding deal for the much-delayed Castle Street improvement scheme in Hull city centre could now be a matter of months away.
Construction work on the upgrade, which involves completely designing the Mytongate junction with Ferensway, is currently scheduled to start in 2016.
However, ministers have yet to sign off final funding approval.
Councillor Martin Mancey, cabinet portfolio holder for transport on Hull City Council, said: "I certainly hope this means good news.
"If the Government did not commit to Castle Street after announcing this additional spending, it would be something of a surprise."
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin is due to visit Hull in May to see the congestion problems on the city's busiest road for himself after meeting MPs and council officials over the issue recently.
Cllr Mancey said: "It would be an even greater surprise if Castle Street was overlooked because of the Secretary of State's own interest in the scheme.
"From what I know from the number of recent meetings between council officers and officials from the Highways Agency, I am encouraged by the amount of time and effort being put into this by the agency.
"It certainly looks as if they are very committed to getting the scheme ready for actual construction work to start.
"The current timetable has the first spade going into the ground in 2016 but there have been recent indications that if everything goes to plan, it might even get under way late next year.
"From our point of view, the sooner they bring it on, the better."
Haltemprice and Howden MP David Davis said: "What we want to see is the de-bottlenecking of our railways and our road systems and we want underpinning of things such as broadband.
"That is what is fundamentally going to cause growth to take off and get us back to 3 per cent levels."
The lack of detail provided by Mr Osborne on which projects might benefit from the extra infrastructure spending was picked up by critics.
Hull North Labour MP Diana Johnson said the lack of clarity over the Castle Street scheme was just one of many disappointments.
She said: "There was nothing new to encourage green wind energy private investors, a large share of Lord Heseltine's city regeneration recommendations are either only partly accepted or rejected and Hull's caravan industry still faces a 5 per cent VAT increase next month."
But Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable insisted ministers remained optimistic about German engineering giant Siemens coming to Hull.
He said: "We remain optimistic they will be coming to the region and we have worked on a number of issues to give them long-term certainty.
"We have worked very closely with Hull City Council and we are delivering a good future for offshore renewables."
Renewables at the Port of Hull has been listed by the Government as one of its "Top 40 Investment Priorites", although no details of what that involves have yet been released.
Andrew Percy, Conservative MP for Brigg and Goole, highlighted a number of positive measures in the Budget.
He said: "It's fair to say this is a Budget in very difficult circumstances but I welcome raising the personal allowance to £10,000.
"That is excellent news in a low-wage area like ours.
"The fuel announcement is also good news, while a lot of rural pubs in my constituency will be happy about the beer duty escalator being scrapped.
"The employment allowance is also good for increasing numbers of small businesses but we still have to accept the most important challenge is growth and that will remain depressed for the next couple of years."
The Budget also confirmed preferred bidder status for a multi-million-pound carbon capture and storage project linked to the Drax power station near Goole.
It will involve capturing 90 per cent of the carbon dioxide from a new coal-fired plant at Drax before being transported and stored in a saline aquifer beneath the North Sea.
Energy secretary Ed Davey said the Drax scheme and a similar project in Edinburgh had the potential to create a completely new industry.
He said: "This moves us a significant step closer to a carbon capture and storage industry – an industry that will help reduce carbon emissions and create thousands of jobs."
Beer drinkers and brewers also toasted the Chancellor's move to cut the price of pint and scrap above-inflation beer tax rises.
Matthew Hodgson, who, in 2006, launched Great Newsome Brewery on his family farm in South Frodingham, described the announcement as "fantastic news".
He said: "The industry has lobbied long and hard to scrap this tax. I was at a beer exhibition in Sheffield last week and there was no mention of it being scrapped there – I'm not sure anybody was expecting it, but it will support businesses like ours, as well as pubs and also ancillary businesses.
"This is the first time since we started the brewery that we are going to have to look at dropping prices rather than increasing them."
Mike Benner, Camra chief executive, said: "This is a momentous day for Britain's beer drinkers.
"This decision will keep the lid on the cost of a pint down the pub and what could have been the final nail in the coffin for our pubs has been decisively avoided."