Six Northern Ireland sites to battle it out to build Heathrow runway with £5bn investment up for grabs
Six sites in Northern Ireland have been longlisted as potential regional logistic hubs for the off-site construction of Heathrow Airport's third runway.
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The winning hub will benefit from the overall creation of 5,000 jobs and £5bn worth of economic benefits from the expansion, and will be one of four regional locations chosen in the UK.
And delegates from the London airport have already begun tours of the individual sites here, including three Mid and East Antrim locations - the former home of Michelin in Ballymena, Belfast City Council's Giant's Park, and a Lisburn and Castlereagh business park.
The only private sector site is Shackleton Barracks in Limavady, owned by MJM Marine.
The chosen hub will pre-assemble components for the runway before they are transported to the airport, which created the competition to ensure the investment would be spread outside of London.
Ann McGregor, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: "Being selected to be a part of the Heathrow expansion would be a fantastic opportunity for Northern Ireland plc in terms of the economic benefits that this would bring.
"MJM Marine, along with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, Belfast City Council and the businesses represented by those regions, all provide examples of talented, innovative world-class companies that could provide a range of services."
Naoimh McConville of MJM previously said that a hub at Shackleton Barracks, a former Ministry of Defence site, "would bring huge benefits to people and businesses in not only the north west but across Northern Ireland, creating jobs and supply chain opportunities and leaving a skills legacy for future generations".
Anne Donaghy, chief executive of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, which has three sites in the running, described a potential win as a "game-changer".
"I am delighted the expression of interest by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, along with our colleagues in Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council and other key partners, has progressed to the next phase of this process," she said.
"A successful bid for a Heathrow logistics hub would be a game-changer both locally, and for Northern Ireland as a whole."
Heathrow will host a business summit in Belfast on June 20 which will allow SMEs here to help deliver the expansion.
And the airport has also begun working with infrastructure companies to explore how the final sites could be used for future projects.
Lord Deighton, chairman at Heathrow Airport, said: "Heathrow expansion is a once in a generation opportunity to transform the UK construction industry, build for the future and deliver a lasting skills legacy for future generations. All of this comes at a pivotal time for our country, as it prepares itself to leave the EU and where we need to build for our future in both travel and trade.
"An expanded Heathrow is for all of Britain and the logistics hubs ensure that expansion spreads the huge potential of its £5bn in economic benefits across Northern Ireland, whilst minimising the impact on the airport's local communities."