County leaders welcome Transport for the North plan

Blakcpool Airport which might have a role to play in the Transport for the North strategic plan
Blakcpool Airport which might have a role to play in the Transport for the North strategic plan

Leaders at Lancashire County Council have welcomed the launch of an over-arching plan to boost transport and the economy in the region.

Transport for the North's Strategic Transport Plan outlines how a sustained 30-year programme of investment in transport infrastructure could boost the north's economy by £100 billion and create 850,000 new jobs by 2050.

County Hall chiefs say a joined-up strategy could be the springboard for improved trade which could also include Blackpool airport and the area's four enterprise zones.

County Councillor Geoff Driver, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: "This plan makes a strong case for much greater investment in the north's transport infrastructure by presenting a compelling vision for the economic transformation this could achieve.

"The overall message is that better connections between economic centres within the north, with the rest of the UK, and via ports and airports with the wider world, would make this an even better place to do business, create more jobs, and lead to greater prosperity.

"We're already working very closely with Transport for the North, which leaves us well-placed to make Lancashire's voice heard and influence future priorities for funding. The emphasis given in the strategy to improving east to west connections across the Central Pennines is very encouraging, and reflects Lancashire's input as a founding member of TFN.

"Lancashire's economy has strong potential for growth in each of the four prime areas identified by the strategy – advanced manufacturing, energy, health innovation, and digital.

"Our county is home to the fourth largest aerospace cluster in the world, with key manufacturing and innovation centres which have the potential to become more productive. Lancashire's strength as an economic area is comparable to the major cities of the north, and we'll be working hard to make this case in order that our priorities are considered for future funding alongside the city regions.

"This draft strategy is just the beginning rather than an end in itself, however the signs are encouraging that government recognises the difference that could be made to people's lives, and the UK economy, by investing more in the north."

County Councillor Michael Green, cabinet member for economic development, environment and planning, said: "One of the key themes of this plan is how better connections between industries and centres of expertise within the north could greatly improve productivity and achieve more rapid growth.

"Advanced manufacturing in the aerospace and automotive industries in East and Central Lancashire in particular have the potential to be transformed by better connections across the Pennines, and tie-in with our existing plans to generate economic growth through Lancashire's Advanced Manufacturing and Energy Cluster represented by the four enterprise zones at Samlesbury, Warton, Blackpool Airport and Hillhouse.

"Lancashire's expertise in energy mirrors similar industries in Cumbria and the North East, and the Lancashire Energy HQ recently established in Blackpool provides a focus for the development of skills and innovation in this sector. Lancashire's defence industry also has the potential to benefit from better links with Manchester and Sheffield, where there are centres of expertise in materials and process development.

"In terms of the prime areas for growth identified by the strategy, Lancashire also has a growing digital sector, and the Health Innovation Campus at Lancaster University, which have the potential to contribute to more rapid growth within Lancashire and across the wider region.

"The plan also emphasises the potential for more national and international trade through our ports and airports, something which could benefit Lancashire through the enterprise zone at Blackpool Airport, and the better links to the Heysham Peninsula that have recently been achieved with the opening of the Bay Gateway.

"Tourism is also vital to Lancashire and there's great potential for growth if national and international links can be improved.

"We already have a good track record in Lancashire of working effectively with government and industry to attract investment, with millions already being spent to improve local transport infrastructure, and develop business and housing sites, through the City Deal and Growth Deal programmes.

"The priorities outlined in Transport for the North's draft strategy will shape future investment and we'll be working hard to make the case for the part Lancashire can play in achieving this vision for a better-connected and more prosperous north."

READ MORE: Transport group launches grand plan