A CONTROVERSIAL decision to allow the expansion of one of the world’s busiest airports will generate thousands of jobs and bring a multi-billion pound boost to the Leeds economy, business leaders have claimed.
The announcement of a green light for a new runway at Heathrow has been described as a “huge opportunity” to connect the region to the “wider world”, and unleash its trade and tourism potential.
But pressure is already mounting on Whitehall to ensure the project does not divert attention from infrastructure schemes in the North, with businesses issuing renewed calls for Government to close the regional funding divide.
The long-awaited decision to back expansion at Heathrow airport was confirmed by the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling yesterday. It follows speculation about the need for a third runway in the South East, and comes a year later than promised.
Addressing the Commons, Mr Grayling said the decision was a “momentous” step, telling MPs that it would secure jobs and business opportunities “for the next decade and beyond”.
But his efforts to persuade members of the benefits of Heathrow were lost on London MP Zac Goldsmith, who followed through on his threat to resign and trigger a by-election.
We are now looking forward to the Government making the final decision next year.Tony Hallwood, aviation development director at Leeds-Bradford Airport
Representatives of Leeds-Bradford Airport have described the announcement as “fantastic news for the Yorkshire region”. Tony Hallwood, aviation development director, said it would allow the airport to “increase and improve connections” while boosting trade and investment.
He said: “We’ve just concluded the consultation into our new masterplan [which] almost mirrors the timeline for the development at Heathrow.”
He added: “We’re obviously going to be working closely to see how Yorkshire businesses can gain some procurement opportunities off the back of Heathrow development itself.
“We are now looking forward to the Government making the final decision next year.”
However, some of the region’s business leaders expressed concerns about the Government’s focus on infrastructure and growth in the South.
Martin Hathaway, chief executive of the Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, which is based in Huddersfield, said work must be done to help the North. He said: “The Government must do all it can to narrow the ‘North-South Divide’ in the UK. This development at Heathrow, together with the new Cross Rail 2 railway in London, represents projected expenditure of around £35bn in the South East.”
Heathrow has previously pledged to invest an extra £10m towards regional air links to regions such as Yorkshire if it was chosen as the site for the new runway. It has claimed that the region could see up to 11,200 new jobs created by 2050 as a result of improved connectivity. President of Leeds Chamber of Commerce, Gerald Jennings, suggested the Heathrow decision had the potential to boost Yorkshire’s economy by up to £9bn over the coming years. But he stressed the need for businesses to “push Government to deliver” in order to make the most of the “huge” opportunity.
This includes investing in infrastructure around Leeds-Bradford Airport – most notably its road and rail links with surrounding towns and cities.