Belfast Telegraph

Secretary of State James Brokenshire: Airport expansion will boost Northern Ireland's economy in the long haul

By James Brokenshire

The imminent Government decision to expand Heathrow or Gatwick will have significant implications for Northern Ireland for decades to come.

A new north-west runway at Heathrow, a second runway at Gatwick, or an extension to one of Heathrow's existing runways are all viable options.

The Government's preferred option will be focused on securing the best outcome for the whole country.

We've had excellent growth figures recently, with the Northern Ireland economy expanding by 1.6% and 64,000 more people in work than in 2010. But our success here depends on our ability to reach out to the world.

We are well-placed to attract new investment in the years ahead - particularly in engineering and high-tech industries - but better connections with fast-growing economies in Asia, South America, and Africa will help in this task and a London hub can provide those connections.

Northern Ireland already benefits hugely from frequent, daily flights to London.

For example, Heathrow reports goods worth almost £1bn are carried on services between that airport and Belfast City, before being exported abroad. And last year, nearly 1.4 million people travelled between Belfast's two airports and Heathrow and Gatwick.

But Heathrow's two runways are now full, and Gatwick is also running out of runway space.

By building more runway capacity in the south east of England, we will be able to improve domestic links.

More competition on routes around the country will also make air fares cheaper.

We need to expand capacity to keep up with our European neighbours, and expanding economies worldwide too.

Airports in cities like Frankfurt, Paris and Amsterdam have lots of room in which to grow and add new routes.

Since 2010, China has built or started building more than 50 new airports - including a nine-runway superhub in Beijing. When Istanbul's new airport opens in two years' time, it will have six runways.

That's why we will announce a runway plan that will back the UK - and Northern Ireland - for the long haul.

It will be affordable, environmentally sustainable, and a plan the whole country can get behind. A mechanism called a National Policy Statement will speed up the planning process, not slow it down as critics claimed.

As the Prime Minister has made absolutely clear, we are going to make a success of Brexit.

That means not just new trading and export opportunities, but also securing the UK's future as outward looking and one of the best-connected countries in the world.

New runway space in the south-east of England will prove essential to that success.

  • James Brokenshire is the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Belfast Telegraph