Delegation's visit raises hopes over Heathrow hub site
A group involved in the construction of a third runway at Heathrow Airport viewed three sites in Co Antrim yesterday sparking hopes of a major windfall for Northern Ireland.
Proponents of the project claim a logistics hub, which would contribute to the off-site construction of the new runway, could be worth £5bn for the economy, helping create around 5,000 jobs.
Some 65 sites across the UK, including six in Northern Ireland, have been 'longlisted' for the final four logistics hubs.
It's part of a pledge by Heathrow Airport to spend 60% of procurement involved in a third runway outside London.
The three sites visited in Co Antrim yesterday were the former Michelin factory in Ballymena, the Global Point business park in Newtownabbey and Belfast International Airport, where managing director Graham Keddie guided the delegation.
The sites have been actively promoted by the councils of Mid and East Antrim, and Antrim and Newtownabbey.
The other three locations in the running are the former Shackleton Barracks in Ballykelly, Silverwood Business Park in Lurgan and North Foreshore in Lisburn. The latter two sites are being promoted by Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council. The former Shackleton Barracks site is now owned by Newry-based group MJM.
Cabinet ministers gave their backing to the third runway at Heathrow on Tuesday.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the decision was being taken in the national interest and would benefit the whole of the UK. He said 15% of new landing slots would facilitate regional connectivity.
The Co Antrim site visits are part of a process which will progress to a pre-qualification questionnaire process later this year.
UUP Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Paul Michael said the council was delighted to have two sites in the running.
"This initiative represents a unique opportunity to help to deliver an efficient and affordable expansion of Heathrow, whilst leaving behind a lasting economic legacy," he said.
"Our offer is built upon the excellent transport network that connects us with Heathrow by road, rail, sea and air and the outstanding supply chain of local companies that can support the expansion."