Two NI sites on shortlist for Heathrow expansion ‘hub’

The former Michelin site in Ballymena
The former Michelin site in Ballymena

Two Northern Ireland locations are in the running to be chosen as one of four new ‘logistics hubs’ to help deliver the expansion of Heathrow airport.

Heathrow plans four construction centres known as logistics hubs across the UK to help with the multi-billion pound airport expansion and the new hubs are expected to deliver significant economic benefits.

The two Northern Ireland locations — the former Michelin plant in Co Antrim and a former World War Two airfield in Co Londonderry — are among 18 on a shortlist drawn up by Heathrow.

The former Shackleton Barracks in Ballykelly, Co Londonderry, was used by the RAF during the Second World War and by the army during the Troubles before it was transferred to public ownership.

A huge site, some land was set aside for use by the public sector, including a substantial new civil service building, while the remainder was sold to the MJM Group in 2016.

The former Michelin plant at Silverwood Business Park in Ballymena, which once served as Michelin’s main manufacturing site in Europe, is the other Northern Ireland site to make to the shortlist.

There is no guarantee either Northern Ireland location will be selected but the Heathrow executive director for expansion, Emma Gilthorpe, has given a commitment to “creating a plan that delivers for every corner of the UK”.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said: “If implemented this project will bring huge benefits to industry and business here. Having a centrally located hub will open up new markets and reduce transportation costs, which is good news for business.”

She added: “I want to congratulate both GRAHAM at the Michelin Site and MJM Marine at Ballykelly on being shortlisted for this pioneering infrastructure project. I look forward to seeing the delivery of Heathrow’s expansion plans so that Northern Ireland can boast of increased connectivity as a result of further, forward thinking investment.”

Emma Gilthorpe, Heathrow’s Executive Director for Expansion said: “This innovative approach will be more cost effective, efficient and sustainable, helping to unlock much needed capacity.”