Back in 2003 few people were surprised when Barton Aerodrome was purchased by Manchester Ship Canal Developments. After all it seemed a logical decision for a group intent of revitalizing the Manchester Ship Canal and all things on and around it. At the time, Peel Holdings was only one of a number of organizations that formed part of the Manchester Ship Canal Developments group.
What did come as a surprise was how the control tower was rebuilt and then Lancashire Aero Club (LAC) exited the updated facilities that they occupied ever since 1946.
Many people suspected they were “moved on”. The reality appears to be bit of Peel pushing and LAC throwing it’s toys out of the pram, but who can be sure. In any case, Peel succeeded in getting them out and in 2010 took full and total control of the airport and it’s operations.
But what I wondered why 2007 was such a marching year for Peel and it’s bid to take over the whole complex….. We’ll get back to that later.
Today on the local Politics Show Arif Ansari covered how Peel Holdings are currently redeveloping the Merseyside Docks, the Manchester Ship Canal and how they are building up dock facilities in Birkenhead, Salford and Manchester. Peel laid it on very thick about how they were a local company investing in their base and so on. All of which sounded very altruistic, noble and complete bullshit.
The fact is, Peel Holdings is actually getting it’s funding elsewhere. It’s coming from China. And before somebody shouts racist paranoia? Check out the details in this Channel 4 news story. Channel 4 News on Chinese Investment in UK infrastructure skip to 4:05 to get the full story. The story includes how Peel Holdings are acting as the UK arm of the China Investment Corporation. The whole endeavor is called the Atlantic Gateway Project.
But who or what is CIC?
Well the China Investment Corporation holds $410 billion of foreign funds for investing in foreign infrastructure. They were established in 2007 (oh, that year again) with the express intention to identify willing business partners around the world to act as “arbitrators” to foreign Governments for the express purpose of expanding lucrative markets for China’s goods. In a basic sense, the CIC is an investment fund of foreign exchange revenue. But politically it’s a door opener for countries around the world.
China is currently busying itself building up infrastructure in Africa, and if China can have “ghost cities”, so can Africa.
So it comes as no surprise to discover that Peel Holdings have been working with the CIC since it’s very inception, as clearly and openly stated on Peel’s own website. It should also come as no surprise that the International (Chinese) Trade Centre will be constructed by Peel, which “could even use” local workers for it’s construction. But given all the previous examples of such construction; most likely won’t.
To sweeten the deal further, the Government is fast tracking building permits and setting up an “enterprise” (low company tax) zone.
Which brings us back to today and Arif’s story about what future plans the Atlantic Gateway has for the region and how part of his report mentioned increasing the the size and facilities at Barton Aerodrome (who’s name incidentally is Manchester City Airport… but nobody seems to know this).
Given Peel own this outright and the land around it, this would allow them to operate the airport as a transport hub for goods and as Peel never seems to loose planning permission on anything, this would prove very cost effective versus flying goods via Manchester, Liverpool or Bradford Leeds airport. Or at least that’s what they think.
Of course, that’s only half the story, because China will also need to send goods via trains and road. So, once again, you’ll not be surprised by the”importance” of high speed rail to the region, it’s “vital”. Hence the “South East” comment in the video. Goods going via container to HSR, then via the channel tunnel or ferry to Europe.
But that’s for the future and Peel seems to have a very long term view. It can afford to wait.
Peel intend to be at the forefront of China’s “Gateway to Europe” project that would involve having Chinese goods transported via North West ports into mainland Europe through ports, it’s either part or complete owner of. It’s owns the ports, it lowers the costs. It’s all good for China. If this sounds familiar, I should point out that Wirral Water is now called Atlantic Gateway.
The only downside is that people might not like their ports being turned into a Chinese container park, but for them I’ve got some very bad news. That deal has already been done and the UK Government is all on board, as can be seem by Vince Cable’s enthusiasm.
Just to remind you of Peel Holding’s part in this. In 2007 they met the Chinese Investment Corporation, they booted out Lancashire Aero Club, gained full control of the airport. Bought up land cheap in Merseyside and signed onto the Atlantic Gateway Project with backing from China. All of which took me 30 minutes to look up.
So why, you might ask yourself, didn’t Arif talk to the CIC or where Peel got all the money. Or why not a single word of the report referred to China, despite this being common knowledge just months earlier (as the Channel 4 report shows).
That’s actually my real main concern. The secrecy.
Now you could see China’s investment as a godsend for the UK’s deprived areas. But is that a costly mistake in the long run? If you look at China’s “investment strategy” in Africa, you might have other ideas.
In Africa, China is asset stripping the place for mineral and oil wealth, giving little back to the actual people of the nations to which it’s Government has signed over control.
Is that what could happen here? Perhaps not. But is China really the sort of “trading partner” that we can afford to be associated with? Only time will tell, by which time it will be too late.