Runways UK: Airport capacity is not just about London and South East

With the Airports debate raging in the press, you would be forgiven for thinking this is a concern for the South East and has limited impact on the regions, but Runways UK, held this week in Manchester, and supported by Barton Willmore, begs to differ.

The audience gathered under the wings of Concorde in MAG's conference centre were challenged by Andrew Loddenburg from HSBC, to consider the financial reality of narrow margins and relative short termism (5 year business planning) of airlines worldwide. This latter point in particular is a challenge when compared with the timeline for airport delivery (20 years) and combined with political cycles.

As we listened to presentations from MAG, Edinburgh and Newcastle airports, Sir Richard Leese and Sir Howard Davies, it became clear that no matter how big the call from the regions to revisit the commissions remit – they are required to find a way in which 'the UK as a whole can be maintained as Europe's most important hub' – this long overdue debate must now fly forwards with a focus on London, but with also an eye on the regions which are very much part of the bigger picture.

The first stages of the Commission called for submissions and solutions countrywide, but the economic profiles presented by Heathrow and Gatwick were not replicated in regional submissions. In the debate held, it was clear to me at least that a UK hub is essential to support long haul flights and harness the market opportunities within the UK.

Direct flights to other international hubs can and are already being driven through the regions successfully; increased hub capacity in the south east in time, will serve to increase carrier and customer choice and ensure that the UK maximises its share of the benefits.

Personally I can't help thinking the debate of north versus south is interesting, but not the issue here. Infrastructure and the important contribution this makes to our national economy is finally back on the agenda, and we all need to ensure that we make the most of this 'large lump of tarmac', wherever it may be situated. We surely therefore need to be looking at how further enhanced surface access and connectivity improvements can be accommodated and how we can ensure that the long term planning for infrastructure growth continues?

As with so many controversial large scale projects, much of the battle lies in ensuring that the debate highlights and conveys what is meant by the 'need' for more runway capacity and that the 'economic growth opportunities' can, if properly considered in the broadest sense, benefit us all.

The key between now and the elections however, much as with the housing debate, is to ensure this discussion maintains its profile. Businesses and individuals need to ensure that their voices are heard.

Get your consultation submissions in ladies and gentlemen. This is about jobs and opportunities for all of us, wherever we live.

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