North is firmly on agenda
THE Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is the largest business support organisation in the UK, with almost 5,000 members in Greater Manchester.
Regional chairman Simon Edmondson offers its latest help and advice...
Last week the Department for Transport ran a series of stakeholder events in Manchester on a number of key transport projects in the north.
As the largest business support organisation in the country, the FSB was invited to, and attended them all.
One of the meetings was particularly relevant here being specifically on the future of the M60 as outlined in the North West Quandrant Strategic Study; another on the Northern Trans-Pennine study; and a final one on the Trans-Pennine Tunnel Strategic Study.
Each event was designed to kick start a conversation around each of the studies following completion of the Routes Strategies and Feasibility Study last year.
Setting aside what was actually discussed at each meeting, the one really encouraging thing that I took away is that ‘the north’ is now very firmly on the agenda of politicians.
I say politicians too, because the infrastructure plans being prepared for the north have broad political consensus, meaning whichever party wins the General Election, we are going to see action.
Going back 10 years this kind of spending outside of the South East would have been unthinkable.
However, it’s quite evident that it is now the turn of the north to benefit for some much needed investment.
Our Strategic Road Network (SRN) has suffered from insufficient and inconsistent funding and is currently unable to meet the social, economic and environmental aspirations we have as a region.
Politicians know that to achieve the Northern Powerhouse vision we have heard about so much recently, this will need to be addressed.
The need for better road links in the north, alongside construction of rail links was first raised by Sir David Higgins in his Rebalancing Britain report looking at the potential knock-on impact of constructing HS2, and we are now seeing actual movement on pushing this forward.
Plans for a transPennine road tunnel along with an upgrade in east-west road links are also currently being worked up, and I understand there will be an announcement on this in August.
However, a source at the DfT told me if this project was to get the go-ahead, and it is a big ‘if ’, it’s unlikely you’ll be making the drive until some point in the 2030s at the earliest.
But still, that the scheme is being looked at is great news for business here in the north.
Simon Edmondson, chairman of the FSB