The UK government has delayed making a final decision regarding its airport expansion program until at least summer 2016.
The Airports Commission presented UK Prime Minister David Cameron with a shortlist of viable airport expansion options earlier this year, highlighting a third-runway at London Heathrow as being the best option for expansion moving forward. A second runway at London Gatwick Airport was presented as the second most favorable option.
It was widely expected that the PM would make a decision regarding which expansion plan would receive the government’s backing before the end of the year. However, a government statement issued yesterday (December 10) has now confirmed that a decision will be delayed until summer 2016, pending the results of further environmental studies.
The report stated that the government had accepted the Airports Commission’s shortlist of options and agreed that the southeast of England needed more runway capacity by 2030, but found that more testing needed to be conducted regarding air quality levels and mitigation packages for local residents.
Patrick McLoughlin, secretary of state for transport, said, “The case for aviation expansion is clear – but it’s vitally important we get the decision right so that it will benefit generations to come. We will undertake more work on environmental impacts, including air quality, noise and carbon.
“We must develop the best possible package of measures to mitigate the impacts on local people. We will continue work on all the shortlisted locations, so that the timetable for more capacity set out by Sir Howard Davies is met. At the first opportunity I will make a statement to the House to make clear our plans.”
Responding to the announcement, London Heathrow Airport said that it would work with the government to deliver the proposed expansion plan within environmental limits.
John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow Airport, said, “The Airports Commission, announced by the PM three years ago, made a unanimous and unambiguous recommendation in July for Heathrow expansion.
“Our new plan will connect the whole nation to global growth while providing opportunities for the local community and making Heathrow the most environmentally responsible hub airport in the world. I am confident we can meet tough environmental standards.
“We have support locally and nationally from politicians, business, trade unions and the aviation industry for Heathrow expansion. Let’s get on and build a better future for Britain.”
Stewart Wingate, CEO for Gatwick Airport, said, “This is a defining moment in the expansion debate. There is now a clear choice facing Britain: growth with Gatwick or inertia at Heathrow with an illegal scheme that has failed time and time again.
“We have always maintained that this decision is about balancing the economy and the environment. Expansion at Gatwick would give the country the economic benefit it needs at a dramatically lower environmental cost.
“We are glad that the government recognizes that more work on environmental impact needs to be done. Air quality, for example, is a public health priority and obviously the legal safeguards around it cannot be wished away.
“Even Heathrow’s most vocal supporters must now realize a third runway at Heathrow will never take off as the environmental hurdles are just too high. If they want Britain to have the benefits of expansion and competition they should now look to Gatwick.”