A POWERFUL group of local enterprise partnerships in the North West could be extended across the Pennines into Yorkshire.
The so-called Atlantic Gateway was set up to attract international investment in large-scale infrastructure projects.
Supporters Lord Heseltine and former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy claim that the area – covering the Liverpool and Manchester city regions and Cheshire and Warrington – could become “an alternative growth pole” to London.
Peter Nears, a board member, told the Yorkshire Post: “It’s an integrated approach to infrastructure provision, growing trade routes and how that can help individual areas selling in certain markets.
“It is not unique or partial to the North West. This is actually an area that could be extended.”
He said the Atlantic Gateway brings together the strengths of individual city regions and LEPs on important infrastructure projects and provides “the critical mass and variety of assets which will attract the attention of international markets”.
“I liken it to a supermarket and having a range of goods on the supermarket shelves. If you are coming into a shop with a whole range of goods then that’s more attractive than if you’re just trying to sell one individual product,” he said, speaking after an economic conference.
The Gateway group wants to develop the port and canal network, expand the science and technology park at Daresbury in Cheshire and improve rail connectivity to create jobs, drive international trade and help rebalance the wider UK economy.
Mr Nears is strategic planning director at the Peel Group, the privately-owned real estate, transport and infrastructure investment giant with developments including the Trafford Centre and Media City in Salford. Its assets include the Port of Liverpool, the Manchester Ship Canal and Robin Hood Airport in Doncaster.
He said the Gateway group considers issues of cross-boundary importance.
He mentioned the Northern Hub rail programme and E20 route as examples.
The Leeds-based E20 campaign aims to increase trade, information and networking along a route running from Limerick in Ireland to St Petersburg in Russia.
Mr Nears said: “You could certainly look at the links between Atlantic Gateway and the Leeds City Region, cross Pennine, tying in with other projects such as the E20.”
The E20 project is supporting closer collaboration between Hull and Tallinn in Estonia. Next year, the project will host an event with Liverpool John Moores University looking at the route to the Americas from the E20.
Mr Nears added: “We need to think in some of the aspects – certainly transport integration – in these broader terms.
“It’s great to have a local agenda and a focus on our own areas but I’m a planner and I see so many plans which start with drawing a boundary around our area and concentrating on what’s within the boundary and it’s how you relate to areas outside which is often going to determine your success internally.
“You have got to find your way in the world and that’s a crucial issue people have got to address and you can only do that by working in partnerships and understanding where those routes are and then jointly pursuing those objectives.”
He said investment in infrastructure needs long-term certainty and confidence in government policy. He added that infrastructure opens up access into trading routes.
Mr Nears said: “Those trading routes are important because they do drive competitiveness and to really rise again what the North needs is to be overall competitive and have access to those international markets.”
He added: “If the supply chains can be made more efficient and they can gain access to markets more quickly and more cheaply then it helps them to be more competitive.
“The more we can do in the North, the less reliant we are on the congested South-East.
“That’s important because if we can use our own ports then that’s certainly cheaper than having to track everything back down to the South and back up again.
“It’s making more use of our indigenous assets, it’s bringing them together, combining them and then selling them on the world stage.”