More than 2,000 delegates arrived in Manchester to discuss the next steps of the government’s plan to create a Northern Powerhouse today.
Held at Manchester Central, the UK Northern Powerhouse conference brought together business owners, transport companies, council members and politicians from across the UK.
Organisers of the two day event, which is being moderated by BBC veteran John Humphries, have billed the conference as ‘the biggest commercial conversation in a generation’.
The initiative, which was announced in 2014 at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry by Chancellor George Osborne, was set up to tackle the north-south economic imbalance.
Ken O’Toole, Manchester Airport’s Managing Director, kicked off the event by unveiling the airport’s new £1billion investment plan.
Mr O’Toole said the project, which will see an expansion of the existing Terminal Two building, will give the whole of the north the ‘global gateway it deserves’.
He said: “In the time the South East has seen the development of the Olympic Village, Channel Tunnel Crossrail One, Terminal Five and Terminal Two at Heathrow, Thameslink, the Jubilee Line extension and widening of the M25 – all valuable schemes – there has not been a single billion pound project in the north.”
He also called on the government to improve high speed rail connections to coincide with the development of the airport.
Mr O’Toole added: “Unless access between the major northern towns and cities and assets like Manchester Airport is also improved, the North will not fully benefit from our growth.
“What the North needs is Government to back transformational projects of its own, ones like HS3, ones that will revolutionise the lives of those living and working here forever, one that will make us question in 30 years time how we ever got by without them.”
Former deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott, who also spoke at the event, said the public must join the debate and fight to make the initiative a success.
He said: “If we’re ready to make it a powerhouse – like Scotland, like Wales, or London with its mayor – we better give to the north the powers and resources that are actually given to these areas.
“It’s about time we got a northern voice and started to shout for the difference which we haven’t got.”