Now, with all the evidence gathered and weighed, there can only be one solution that is right for Yorkshire, and right for Britain. Only a third runway at Heathrow will deliver for the future growth of the region.
On the face of it, local businesses and people could be forgiven for thinking that this is a decision that will only affect those in the South East.
That, whichever option the Commission recommends, there is no cause for concern.
But, in reality, it is a critical moment in history for our regional economy.
There are two simple reasons why an expanded Heathrow is the right and only option for Yorkshire – connectivity and growth. The evidence shows that expansion at Heathrow will fuel more than 11,000 new jobs in Yorkshire alone, growing the economy by £9bn. These are figures we can ill afford to ignore.
Many of the UK’s best performing small-to-medium enterprises are based in and around Yorkshire and the Humber. We have a proud business history.
To fully realise their potential, grow jobs and drive prosperity, these same businesses need new and better connections to global markets and more daily flights to more cities. Only expansion at Heathrow can deliver this.
The Leeds Bradford to Heathrow route has had an uncertain past. It was even withdrawn between 2009 and 2012. Even today, the first daily departure from Leeds Bradford to Heathrow lands after 10.30am, and the last return flight takes-off before 3pm.
This restrictive schedule has an impact. It is unacceptable that access to the nation’s hub is not more frequent or convenient for Yorkshire businesses, but it is also a major deterrent for new businesses looking to invest here.
On the back of strong annual growth, Leeds Bradford Airport has said they expect to see demand double for travel between Leeds and London in the next five years. But to realise this growth potential, the number of flights to Yorkshire must keep pace with demand.
Today’s constraints are the result of a Heathrow that is full to bursting. With more slots at better times, Yorkshire’s access to the world and to foreign investment will be dramatically improved.
With regular flights to over 80 long-haul destinations and 64 daily departures to cities across the UK, Heathrow is the world’s gateway to Yorkshire and Yorkshire’s gateway to the world.
Expansion will connect our exporters with up to 40 more global destinations.
It means famous Yorkshire businesses and their world-renowned produce will have far greater exposure and reach. It will also ensure that the brightest minds from around the world are bringing their ideas to our region and that we have the exposure that ensures ongoing investment.
Heathrow offers unparalleled convenience for visitors travelling to Yorkshire from any destination in the world.
It is the only UK airport with daily direct flights to mainland China and Hong Kong (over 100 departures each week), the broadest reach of any UK airport into India, the only flights to South America and has over 140 arrivals every single day from cities in the United States.
These are markets Yorkshire must tap in to if we are to ensure the region’s future economic success. Our businesses rely on it. Future generations of job seekers will rely on it.
Our tourism industry will be given an important boost too. Foreign inbound tourists fly through Heathrow, with 30 million coming to Britain through the nation’s hub in 2014.
I’m proud to live in Yorkshire. I want to tell the world why it’s a fantastic place to live and do business. Anyone who lives in Yorkshire knows this is a global destination to rival any other.
People who visit this part of the world want to come back time and time again. And why wouldn’t they? With stunning landscapes from the Dales to the coast; and world class events like Tour de Yorkshire, we have a fantastic story to share.
It is time we were given the permission to truly open the doors to the rest of the world; shouting about the brilliance of Yorkshire while also attracting new investment from elsewhere.
Expansion at Heathrow can keep Yorkshire at the heart of the global economy and attract tourists from mature and emerging markets.
It will mean greater connectivity, more jobs, stronger growth and an exciting future for the region.
I urge Sir Howard Davies and the Airports Commission to recommend growth at Heathrow and the new Government must take urgent and decisive action on that recommendation – we cannot afford any additional delay on this critical national project.
Gerald Jennings is president of Leeds Chamber of Commerce.