London Airport expansion postponed
The coalition has postponed further discussions over expanding airports in south-east England. The news comes following reports of disagreements over how to progress with the expansion plans.
The disagreements come over proposals to include extra runways at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted and proposals to build a new airport on the Thames Estuary. These plans are now going to be dealt with later on in the year. This is the second time that a consultation on aviation has been postponed by the coalition government.
The consultation was originally scheduled to start in March, but was then delayed until the summer. It is now unlikely that discussions will go ahead until the autumn.
The expansion is supported by businesses that claim expansion is ‘vital’ or the UK will suffer an economic disadvantage. However, green groups oppose the expansion, claiming it will be ‘damaging’.
Transport Secretary Justine Greening, in line with official Conservative policy, opposes a third runway at Heathrow. Similarly, the Liberal Democrats also oppose the expansion at Heathrow. The coalition agreement between the two parties rules out new airports in the region.
However, it is believed that Chancellor George Osborne, as well as number of other Conservative MPs, are coming round to the idea of a third runway at Heathrow. This is believed to be the reason that discussions have been postponed again. Supports of Heathrow expansion within the government have been accused of trying to delay everything until after the conclusion of the next election,
In a written statement to MPs on Thursday, Justine Greening did not include details of the consultation on south-east England’s airports.
However, she did announce plans for a £500million investment towards a western rail link to Heathrow, intended to speed up journeys to and from Wales and south-west England. She also revealed that issies such as maximising the use of existing airport capacity and reducing sound from aircraft would be looked at ahead of the full consultation on airports in the south east.
Justine Greening said,
“London is already one of the best-connected cities in the world, but there is still an important but challenging debate to be had on how we accommodate the long-term growth of aviation.
“This framework provides the building blocks for this debate and I look forward to working with the industry, residents and other interested parties on this once they have had the chance to consider these measures.”
Mike Carrivick, chief executive of the Board Airline Representatives in the UK, said,
“Delaying important decisions until later in the year demonstrates a lack of courage and the paralysis afflicting strategic policy-making within the government.”
Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said,
“The government has spent years working on a strategy for UK aviation, so reports that there will be yet more delays beggar belief.
“Businesses are tired of indecision and equivocation on aviation. Ministers can’t tell businesses to look for new opportunities in emerging markets like Brazil and China, and then fail to provide the basic infrastructure needed to get there.”
Environmentalists have raised concerns over the impact that an expansion of Heathrow airport would have on the countryside, levels of noise pollution and the effect on people’s quality of life.
Friends of the Earth’s head of campaigns Andrew Pendleton said,
“The reality is we don’t need more airport capacity in the South East. London already has flights to the world’s top business centres than any of its European competitors.
“Building more airports or runways will have a devastating impact on local communities and our environment and undermine UK efforts to tackle climate change.”
Conservative London Mayor Boris Johnson also opposes expansion at Heathrow, but has campaigned for a new airport in the Thames Estuary which has become known as “Boris Island”. A £50billiion project to build an airport east of London has been put forward by architect Lord Foster.
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