Thursday, April 19, 2012

Heathrow Airport expansion ‘ruled out for 10 years’ by aviation minister

By Nicholas Cecil
19 April 2012

A third runway at Heathrow has been ruled out for at least a decade, it was claimed today.

Opponents seized on a speech by aviation minister Theresa Villiers on the likelihood of the airport being allowed to expand. She told a transport conference in London: “Heathrow is unique in Europe in terms of the magnitude of the noise impact it has on densely populated areas.

“The quality-of-life impact of a third runway, with up to 220,000 more flights over London every year, would be massive and there is no technological solution in sight to ensure planes become quiet enough quickly enough to make this burden in any way tolerable.”

The Lib-Con coalition has ruled out another runway at Heathrow during this Parliament — but aviation bosses have lobbied hard to put the development back on the agenda after the 2015 election. Today anti-expansion campaigners Hacan ClearSkies were delighted by Ms Villiers’s comments on a third runway.

The group’s chairman John Stewart said: “This is certainly ruling it out for a decade and more.

“It was a very clear message to the industry to say they can forget about lobbying for a third runway because it’s just not going to happen.”

Heathrow owner BAA responded to Ms Villiers’s speech by threatening legal action if the Government does not follow the proper procedure in developing its new aviation policy and rejects a third runway out of hand.

A spokesman said: “It is important that major decisions by government follow due process and the option to seek a judicial review if it does not is always available.

“We expect the Government to consider the pros and cons of all options carefully and consult properly before taking any policy decisions.”

Ms Villiers admitted that “another solution” to boost airport capacity in the South-East is needed.

Options which are being examined include a “Boris island” style airport in the Thames Estuary or a second runway at Gatwick after 2019 when an agreement banning such a development runs out.

At the conference, BAA’s chief executive Colin Matthews produced figures showing that foreign airlines were shunning Heathrow because of capacity constraints at the airport.

Airlines and businesses both argue that the UK will lose out if Heathrow is not expanded.

But Ms Villiers said London was “arguably the most well-connected city in the world, with its airports providing direct links to about 350 international destinations”.

Ms Villiers went on: “So while it is true that Heathrow is pretty much full and Gatwick too is approaching capacity it is simply not the case that London’s connectivity is falling off a cliff edge.”


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