There is no doubt that the last twelve months have been the most challenging for our regional economy and communities in peacetime. Coronavirus has impacted the way we live and work and has tested our business community to the limit. As a result, we have seen many jobs lost, with more to come, and businesses weakened across our region. The long term impact and scarring will be felt for many years to come.
Brexit too has presented challenges for businesses, with final preparations all but impossible to make until we had seen the details contained within the deal struck with only days to go until the end of the transition period. As we enter the second month under these new trading conditions we at the Chamber are supporting a large number of firms as they try and adapt to new trade procedures. More worryingly, the structural changes caused by our departure from the single market and customs union, has made trading with the EU for some firms an unviable proposition. There is no doubt this will hit the region’s balance of trade and ultimately weaken our economy.
Despite the gloom and uncertainty many are seeing the crisis as an opportunity to ‘build back better’, to rethink the role of cities, towns and district centre high streets and to ensure we have the transport infrastructure fit for the future to deliver and support long term, sustainable economic growth.
Against this backdrop we have significant opportunity for private sector investment to upgrade and improve the region’s airport, and in the process deliver a new, world leading, net zero carbon terminal worthy of the people of Yorkshire.
This afternoon Leeds City Council Plans Panel members will be asked to approve the application for a replacement terminal building and supporting infrastructure, a position recommended by the city’s chief planning officer. This planning application is designed to significantly boost our economy, maintain and create sustainable jobs. We should not ignore the importance of that to our City and the region. It will deliver on Leeds’s ‘inclusive growth strategy’ by providing jobs for all.
As a Chamber we have supported regional firms to trade around the globe since the Victorian era, we have championed investment in infrastructure as we know that connectivity makes the economy function. It’s no coincidence that cities with strong performing airports enjoy the benefits of connectivity, that allows international trade to thrive and grow. The knock-on effect is that more businesses want to put down roots in those regions, resulting in more jobs and regional spending.
There is untapped potential at LBA and it is time to embrace its redevelopment, and particularly its plans to create a highly sustainable and net zero carbon facility. Infrastructure projects of this scale and investment with private backing do not come along every day and these developments drive economic growth.
I understand the environmental concerns some will raise about aviation but simply continuing with the existing infrastructure is not the answer, nor is exporting our carbon footprint to airports elsewhere as our region’s travellers have to fly from Manchester or other locations. The proposed investment will create the most efficient and sustainable airport terminal in the UK, setting new standards. This investment will pave the way for a sustainable future in aviation that LBA couldn’t otherwise deliver. This development provides investment in cleaner fuels. enabling the airport’s entire fleet of support vehicles to switch to hydrogen and EV through the inclusion of a new energy hub. It will provide direct access to the proposed new rail station, in turn offering passengers and employees more sustainable travel choices. More broadly the aviation sector is facing up to the challenges of climate change with national and international leaders already working to decarbonise the sector. Proposals for LBA will facilitate its transition to a more sustainable model, with airlines already committing to flying ultra-efficient and quiet planes, which the development will continue to attract.
A value of £869 million to our region, protecting 12,650 livelihoods, and creating new opportunities simply cannot be underestimated even in normal times. But it’s more important than ever to our region and its future.
Leeds is well placed to be one of the country’s leading business destinations, but we need this type of infrastructure to support that ambition. The Chamber, and the many businesses we represent, want and need this investment for the jobs and economic benefits it will undoubtedly deliver to our city and region. I am certain that LBA’s vision will deliver an airport that is better placed to support our region’s long-term economic recovery and growth whilst providing an airport that Yorkshire can be proud of. This is a once in a generation opportunity to deliver key infrastructure, and we cannot afford to waste this moment.