The commission is tasked with drawing up a shortlist of options for expanding the UK’s air capacity by 2030 – a shortlist which has now narrowed to containing three options:
- A third runway at Heathrow
- An extended double runway at Heathrow
- A second runway at Gatwick
Commission chair Sir Howard Davies said: “We are not persuaded that a very large airport in the Thames estuary is the right answer to London’s and the UK’s connectivity needs.
“While we recognise the need for a hub airport, we believe this should be a part of an effective system of competing airports to meet the needs of a widely spread and diverse market like London’s.”
Davies added that such a plan would hit the public purse heavily and faced environmental hurdles which could be “impossible” to surmount.
Johnson said in a statement yesterday: “In one myopic stroke the Airports Commission has set the debate back by half a century and consigned their work to the long list of vertically filed reports on aviation expansion that are gathering dust on a shelf in Whitehall.
“Gatwick is not a long term solution and Howard Davies must explain to the people of London how he can possibly envisage that an expansion of Heathrow, which would create unbelievable levels of noise, blight and pollution, is a better idea than a new airport to the east of London that he himself admits is visionary, and which would create the jobs and growth this country needs to remain competitive.”
Business groups have welcomed the announcement, arguing that expansion of existing airports is the least risky option.
John Longworth, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Businesses across the UK have long said they want more aviation capacity. Nearly all tell us that they want this delivered by expanding existing airports, rather than building entirely new ones.
“For most firms, the idea of starting from scratch – and fundamentally shifting the economic geography of the UK – was filled with risk. Most companies will support the Airports Commission’s decision to focus its attention on the expansion plans put forward by existing airports, rather than the Thames Estuary.”
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