The business membership organisations have written to George Osborne, backing proposals included in the One North plan, put forward by five local authorities earlier this year.
The letter was signed by the Chief Executives of the North East Chamber of Commerce, Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce, Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and Industry, West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce.
One North was launched in July and proposes significant investment in transport and connectivity infrastructure over the next 16 years. It received a positive welcome from the Chancellor, who indicated he would respond to the proposals in his Autumn Statement, due on December 3
NECC Chief Executive, James Ramsbotham, said: “Our members are very much behind the principle of improved connectivity across the North of England, which will unlock the huge assets within the northern economy. A united northern chambers network stands ready to work with our local authorities and the Government to ensure this initiative delivers benefits across the North and meets businesses’ expectations
“The local authorities that have pushed the project to this point must be congratulated. Infrastructure in the North has been under-developed for decades and addressing this is essential to achieve economic rebalancing and create the ‘northern powerhouse’ that Government has spoken of.
“While transport is by no means our members’ sole concern, it is consistently a high priority across all of our organisations. We therefore urge progress to ensure the opportunity to deliver these investments is not missed.”
The Chambers involved in producing this response represent businesses in the five cities involved in developing the One North plan. However, geographies that go well beyond that are represented by the Chambers. It is critical that support for this project expands beyond the boundaries of the local authorities concerned, and that the strategy that is delivered produces benefits more widely across the North.
The North of England contains substantial business and economic assets that should be maximised for the benefit of the whole of UK plc. These include:
· More than a quarter of UK manufacturers are based in the North;
· Sheffield’s world leading expertise in advanced materials;
· The second largest digital and creative sector cluster in Europe, in Greater Manchester;
· The automotive cluster around Nissan in Sunderland, that produces one in three of the UK’s cars;
· The offshore industry on the North Sea coast, plus substantial expertise in new and renewable energy technologies;
· A £6bn petrochemicals cluster around the Humber, and the largest integrated chemicals plant in the UK in Tees Valley;
· The largest legal and financial services cluster outside the capital in Leeds;
· One of only three internet exchanges in the UK in Leeds;
James added: “The North has the capacity to support much greater levels of economic activity. There is available land for development, at a cheaper cost, than many parts of the South. Development can also be delivered without putting the same pressure on environmental resources, such as water.
“In supporting One North, the Northern Chambers of Commerce are calling on other organisations across the North to work together, to ensure the opportunity to transform connectivity across the North of England is grasped.
“We expect the strategy to be given a high priority by local authorities and the Government with Chambers ready to play a part in articulating business views on proposals and helping to develop projects further.
“A strong commitment to deliver this strategy should be made in the Autumn Statement of 2014, receiving cross-party support to give confidence that a 15-year investment plan will be seen through by any future governments over that period.”