Rob Charlton, CEO of Space Architecture
Jamie Hardesty

North East Northern Powerhouse insight: Rob Charlton, CEO of Space Architecture

In an ongoing series, Jamie Hardesty is talking to North East business leaders in an attempt to understand the region’s feelings towards the government’s Northern Powerhouse initiative.

Come May, two years will have passed since George Osborne first spoke of the need for ‘building a Northern Powerhouse’.

Whilst awareness of the phrase has of course increased during this time, growing consciousness has not necessarily produced greater understanding of what the Northern Powerhouse actually is.

This investigation, surveying regional business opinion, hopes to add coherence to the concept.

After speaking to Dr. Stan Higgins, CEO of cluster organisation NEPIC, earlier in the week, we now welcome Rob Charlton, CEO of Space Architecture, to the discussion.

What does the Northern Powerhouse mean to you Rob?

It means collective positivity. The Powerhouse is positive for the North from a profile perspective and ensures the North remains on the political agenda.

Are there signs of the Northern Powerhouse starting to bear fruit in the region?

The fact that the Minister lives in the region has to be a good sign, however it is difficult to see specific benefits at this stage.

Has the government done enough to convince you of its commitment to Osborne’s vision?

Not really – currently it feels like marketing without a real end goal.

Transport improvement is intrinsic to the Northern Powerhouse. Do you believe that spending billions of infrastructure will improve Northern productivity?

I’m not of the opinion it will improve productivity but it will improve connectivity around the region and further afield. Rail links from the North East are far from adequate so it certainly is important to be addressed with sufficient financial backing.

Are there any other areas which you believe money should be spent on, ahead of transport?

Aside from transport, education and skills must remain priorities if we are going to find a long-term sustainable solution to building business here.

Does the North East need a mayor? If so, who should it be?

We need to speak with a single voice. We need to be less parochial so a Mayor is a good idea – as to who it should be, I have no idea! It needs to be someone who has a vision and is able to make it happen. Sir Howard Bernstein has made a huge difference in Manchester, for example.

Will the Northern Powerhouse be realised in the North East

I don’t believe the full vision will be realised. We need to be bolder and less insular.

Thanks Rob.

Don’t miss our latest Northern Powerhouse coverage here. To nominate a North East business leader to be part of our new series, contact Jamie at

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