Manchester Airport in northwest England has received outline-planning approval for a £100 million ($160 million) development called World Logistics Hub. The plan is to create up to 130,000 square meters of new logistics space at the UK’s fourth-largest cargo airport, behind London Heathrow, East Midlands and London Stansted.
Parent company Manchester Airports Group, which also owns East Midlands and Bournemouth Airports, hopes the scheme will help revitalize a moribund UK airfreight market. Cargo and mail throughput at Manchester in 2011 was 107,000 tonnes, almost 8-percent down on the previous year’s total, according to the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority.
Inbound traffic accounts for almost 60 percent of the tonnage, led by imports from Asia and the Middle East, but consumer and industrial demand is sharply down as the domestic economy flat-lines. North America is primarily an export market out of Manchester, while Latin American traffic is growing in both directions.
The new development, comprising small and medium warehouses ranging from 700 to 20,000 square meters in size, will more than triple the area of Manchester Airport’s current World Freight Terminal, which provides 62,000 square meters of warehouse and office space. The existing facility, home to five cargo-handling companies and around 50 freight forwarders and logistics services providers, employ more than 1,000 people.
The World Logistics Hub forms part of Manchester’s £650 million Airport City scheme. This, in turn, is the focal point of Greater Manchester’s Enterprise Zone, designated by the UK government in 2011 in recognition of its potential to attract investment, create jobs and boost the regional and national economy.
Airport City Manchester has pledged to deliver up to 500,000 square meters of new business space over the next 10 to 15 years and aims to create a highly connected commercial location, the first of its kind in the UK, that will compete for international business against similar airport city projects in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Düsseldorf and Copenhagen.
“We already have significant international interest in the scheme, and planning approval is a big step toward delivering new employment opportunities for local people,” MAG’s Airport City Director John Atkins said. He predicted the World Logistics Hub would create more than 1,800 permanent jobs, in addition to significant work during the construction phase.
Some 60 percent of UK businesses, and a consumer market of more than 24 million, are estimated to be located within two hours’ driving time of Manchester. The World Logistics Hub, with its easy access to the airport apron, rail station and highway network, will combine with the existing terminal to offer a full range of air-to-road transfer, assembly and processing activities for forwarders and other logistics business, MAG has predicted.
Manchester is looking to drive future exports by commercializing products such as the so-called “wonder material” Graphene. An initiative is also underway to revive the city’s historic cotton trade.