The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim has reinforced Northern Ireland’s commitment to land a Heathrow Logistics Hub after the airport’s plans to build a third runway were backed by MPs.
The government won a key vote in the Commons by 415 votes to 119 – a majority of 296.
Representatives from Heathrow Airport recently completed their assessment of the six Northern Ireland sites in the running to be key partners in the expansion of Heathrow.
Mid and East Antrim, along with its partners in Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, have three sites in the running for a logistics hub – Michelin in Ballymena, Belfast International Airport and Global Point Business Park in Newtownabbey.
It’s estimated that the hubs – designed to ensure the Heathrow expansion delivers for the whole of the UK – could deliver an economic boost of £5billion and create 5,000 jobs in Northern Ireland.
And Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Lindsay Millar, said she was delighted the project had moved another step closer following the decision by MPs at Westminster on Monday evening.
She said: “Last night’s vote is great news for Heathrow and all of those currently bidding to be selected as a base for a Heathrow Logistics Hub.
“Being part of the Heathrow expansion would be a big boost for the manufacturing and construction sectors here, and for the wider economy.
“We have the capability and the capacity to play a big part in this project and have shown the Heathrow delegation that we are ready and willing to work with them.”
The sites are on a long-list of 65 across the UK to become Heathrow Logistic Hubs – offsite construction centres where parts can be pre-assembled before being transported to the London airport for construction.
Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Paul Michael, said: “The news that the third runway at Heathrow is to go ahead is a fantastic step forward for all involved.
“The opportunities that this excellent investment will generate will reach all parts of the UK and beyond through new jobs, supply chain opportunities and business growth.
“We are optimistic that one of the proposed Heathrow logistics hubs will be secured for Northern Ireland and indeed for one of the three sites proposed through our partnership with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.
“Such ventures are essential for Northern Ireland and we look forward to supporting the Heathrow project as it advances to the next stage.”
Mid and East Antrim and Antrim and Newtownabbey councils are working to ensure that the Heathrow Airport Expansion Team get a complete understanding of the potential that Northern Ireland Plc can offer should it secure one of the four proposed hubs.
As well as visiting the potential sites, the Heathrow delegation also met with some of the major construction and manufacturers in Northern Ireland to find out more about their businesses and explain how the hubs will fit into the airport’s expansion plans. The delegation was also met by key local politicians and MPs.
North Antrim MP Ian Paisley said: “The Heathrow expansion programme is an incredible opportunity to boost economic growth across the UK and create a legacy of manufacturing excellence.
“It is vital my constituency and Northern Ireland as a whole is afforded the best possible chance to play a major role in what would be a game-changer economically, and myself and all of the partners involved will continue to offer our unrelenting support and leadership to secure a pioneering logistics hub.”
Anne Donaghy, Chief Executive of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, said: “We left the Heathrow delegation in no doubt as to the huge benefit which we could bring to the proposed airport expansion.
“Our manufacturing capabilities are world class and we have the know-how, the talent and the track record to go beyond their expectations of a strategic partner when it comes to delivery.
“For us, and for the Northern Ireland economy, being chosen as a Heathrow Logistics Hub would provide a huge boost in terms of economic benefits and jobs.”
Having carried out the local site visits in recent weeks, Heathrow aims to open a pre-qualification questionnaire process to the successful bidders later in the year.
Heathrow will be the first major infrastructure project in the UK to pioneer the large-scale use of logistics hubs – aiming to build as much of the project off-site as possible.
The hubs will work by pre-assembling components off-site before transporting them in consolidated loads to Heathrow just as they are needed.
Research by WPI Economics earlier this year revealed that integrating an offsite manufacturing supply chain into a major project has the potential to reduce the overall cost of the project by as much as 25% whilst speeding up delivery by up to 30%.