• Sunday, May 26, 2024


London airport expansion decision could take till 2017-18

Some business leaders favour expansion at London’s Heathrow airport

PLANS to boost London’s airport capacity may not receive full approval for at least another year, it emerged yesterday (October 19), even though the government is expected to announce its preference to expand Heathrow next week.

Prime Minister Theresa May told lawmakers that a decision on whether to back a third runway at Britain’s busiest airport or instead expand London’s Gatwick will be subject to further consultation and a parliamentary vote.

A letter to cabinet colleagues setting out the process confirmed this vote would be in the winter of 2017/2018.

“This is a subject that has been debated, discussed, speculated on for 40 years. This government will take a decision,” May told the House of Commons.

“But there is then a formal process that has to be undertaken so that the government will identify its preferred option of site. That will then go to a statutory consultation.

“The government will then consider the results of the statutory consultation and bring forward an airports national planning statement on which this House will vote.”

May’s official spokeswoman confirmed on Tuesday (October 18) that a decision by the cabinet’s airports subcommittee would be made next week.

In an unusual move, ministers will be free to criticise the decision, fuelling speculation that the government will opt for a third runway at Heathrow.

Several cabinet ministers, including foreign secretary Boris Johnson, have strongly opposed increasing capacity at Heathrow because of its proximity to a densely populated area.

In July 2015, a government-appointed commission recommended building a third runway at Heathrow, in the west of the capital, to ease congestion.

It said the runway would cost £17.6 billion, but generate up to £147 billion over 60 years and create more than 70,000 jobs by 2050.

The report added that a rival bid for a second runway at Gatwick airport south of London was also “plausible.”

A final decision was delayed pending further investigation into the environmental impact, including noise and pollution.

Business communities have long been lobbying the government to expand one of the capital’s existing airports, which they say cannot keep up with rising air travel demand.



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