Northern airports should be established as the ‘beating heart’ of the Northern Powerhouse economy.

The call from regional business leaders to the government will be made today at a meeting at Manchester airport.

They will say that direct access to the world’s most important economies is critical to the creation of centres of excellence in fields like advanced manufacturing, technology, energy and life sciences in the north of England.

It comes ahead of the close of the consultation on the government’s aviation strategy green paper.

Spare runway capacity, coupled with investment at Manchester airport demonstrates that northern airports have the capability to play a leading role in rebalancing the economy and taking pressure away from London and the south-east, in the short, medium and long term, the leaders will say.

Securing direct links with high-growth economies – as opposed to via connections at domestic or overseas hubs – will do most to increase trade, investment and educational links to and from the north, they claim.

Dramatically improved surface access, through schemes like Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), is urgently required to cut journey times between the UK’s third largest gateway and major cities in the north, nearly trebling its public transport catchment area and helping attract up to 20 new long-haul routes in the process.

Evidence gathered following the launch of new long-haul services to countries such as China has shown that hundreds of million pounds of annual economic benefit can be generated as a result of direct connectivity being established.

Lord Jim O’Neill, vice-chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “Access to the world’s most important markets is key to the north realising its true potential.

“Across the Northern Powerhouse, we are seeing significant private sector investment in airports, demonstrated nowhere better than here at Manchester airport.

“That ambition should be matched by government support for maximising the potential of northern airports through the Aviation Strategy process.

“We need major investment that will allow the north’s economic corridors to be better connected, attracting investment, creating jobs as well as attracting overseas organisations to discover a connected Northern Powerhouse through Manchester airport, which with direct flights already to destinations like China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Ethiopia, is key.

“Due to transport barriers, it can take an hour and a half to get from Leeds to Newcastle for instance, which would be cut significantly under Northern Powerhouse Rail.”

Manchester airport CEO Andrew Cowan added: “Manchester airport is a national asset, providing the north with direct connectivity to more than 210 destinations around the world.

“This list includes nine of the UK’s ten biggest export markets, our largest source markets for inward investment and international centres of excellence in the sectors the North has particular strength in.

“We are clear that Manchester airport has the potential to play an even greater role in driving growth across the north and rebalancing the UK in the process. That is why we are investing more than £1 billion in transforming our facilities and laying the foundations for us to connect the north to even more international destinations.

“It is pleasing to see Manchester airport’s national significance recognised in the Aviation 2050 Green Paper and we look forward to working with government, and our partners across the north, to identify and deliver the measures that will unlock our full potential for the benefit of the region, and the UK as a whole.

“That includes through schemes like HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, which will combine with our own investment to make the North one of the world’s most connected regions.”