Former Independent editor Chris Blackhurst has called for better informed investment in the north of England.

Speaking at the annual Society of Editors conference in Carlisle, Barrow-born Chris criticised what he sees as misguided post-industrial investment in the area.

Now Executive Director of high profile consultancy firm CTF Partners, he said the north was suffering from a lack of self-belief and self-awareness that had seriously affected its investment, and opportunities are being missed.

He claimed previous investors had allowed themselves to be “seduced by glossy media in the south”.

He said Barrow, despite having built a reputation for its specialist and highly complex work building nuclear submarines, had made the same mistake as many other industrial towns: “They created an enterprise park with grass embankments…low-slung buildings, and lots of flag poles but new businesses did not set up there. It was snapped up by car dealers.

“Where are the start-ups, the centres of excellence?

“No new jobs came out of it at all.”

He was sceptical about the idea of the Northern Powerhouse, identifying it as only evident in a small area of the north of England.

Blackhurst identified another factor contributing to the north’s lack of industrial progression, the ‘northern psyche’.

He said: “It’s not just a problem of lack of infrastructure and investment. It’s a problem of a lack of self-belief.”

He added there were “no ambitious role models, no business models”.

Nevertheless, he urged people not to underestimate the region, and highlighted the many scientific and engineering accomplishments achieved in the north: “The north gave the world the first railway, split the atom … but this is not reflected in the coverage of it in the south.”

Stephanie Gabbatt

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