Decision On Airport Expansion Delayed Again

Decision On Airport Expansion Delayed Again

The Government has delayed making a decision on airport expansion until at least next summer.

The announcement came after Prime Minister David Cameron – who had at one stage promised a decision by the end of this year – discussed the controversial issue with senior Cabinet ministers.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said there was a "clear" case for airport expansion, "but it's vitally significant we obtain the decision right so that it will benefit generations to come".

He said ministers would "undertake more work on environmental impacts, including air quality, noise & carbon" & "continue work on all the shortlisted locations".

These are two proposals for runways at Heathrow & one at Gatwick.

In July, the Davies Commission recommended that a third runway at Heathrow was the best option – if work was undertaken to deal with noise & pollution – yet moreover left open the option of expanding Gatwick instead.

Critics of the move claim it will damage the economy & say it is a politically-motivated decision to avoid damaging resignations by high-profile Conservatives.

The party's candidate for May's London mayoral election, Zac Goldsmith, has promised to quit as an MP if Heathrow is chosen.

Tory incumbent Boris Johnson is moreover fiercely opposed, along with Sadiq Khan, Labour's candidate for the role.

Mr Khan accused the Government of delaying a decision "to avoid embarrassing" his opponent.

Mr Johnson told Sky News it was time to "jettison the third runway" & "chuck it overboard".

He added that as well as the noise & air pollution it would cause, it is "so pathetically non-ambitious for Britain, which needs a hub airport with up to four or five runways".

A hub airport in the Thames Estuary in Kent has been pushed by Mr Johnson for years, although this idea was ruled out by the Davies Commission. 

Mr Goldsmith meanwhile welcomed the announcement of the delay as "good news" for the capital.

He said: "We know that any airport expansion must meet our legally binding carbon, noise & air quality limits.

"There can be no doubt that in a fair contest on air quality, Heathrow will not win."

Simon Clydesdale, aviation campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: "Neither Heathrow nor the Davies Commission have managed to convince anybody that they can build a new runway without breaking pollution & carbon limits, which would be illegal, no ifs, no buts.

"Kicking the can down the road for another six months won't solve what is clearly an insoluble problem."

Business leaders were scathing in their assessment of the latest development in the long-running saga.

John Longworth, director-general at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "Businesses will see this as a gutless move by a Government that promised a clear decision on a new runway by the end of the year.

"Business will question whether ministers are delaying critical upgrades to our national infrastructure for legitimate reasons, or to satisfy short-term political interests."

Simon Walker, director-general of the Institute of Directors, said business leaders would be "tearing their hair out" at the news.

Source: “Sky News”