Airports Commission Chooses Third Runway

Conditions of Heathrow expansion would include ending of night flights

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The Airports Commission has announced that it has selected a third runway at Heathrow as the best option for airport expansion in the capital.

Sir Howard Davies, who chaired the commission, argued that Heathrow's existing international connectivity and the large air freight industry already operating from the location made it clearly a better option than Gatwick.

However, he is also recommending a new package of measures to limit noise and air pollution at the site including ending night flights landing before 6am. There would also be a pledge not to build a fourth runway.

He said he had adopted Hounslow Council's 'Better not Bigger' approach to the airport in his deliberations.

An aviation noise levy would be introduced to fund insulation for homes and schools, and a legal commitment should be made on air quality.

Sir Howard said, "The best answer is to expand Heathrow's capacity through a new north-west runway. Heathrow is best placed to provide the type of capacity which is most urgently required: long haul destinations to new markets. It provides the greatest benefits for business passengers and the broader economy.

The new runway will cost £17.6 billion to build, far higher than the cost of the Gatwick alternative, and will require the demolition of nearly 800 homes. The changes needed to local rail and road links could add another £5 billion to the total cost. The Commission believes this would be funded by private finance.

The project will take a decade to complete assuming it is given the go-ahead by the Government. They are due to give their full official response in the autumn and David Cameron has pledged in the past that there would be no new runway at Heathrow. Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, and Theresa May, the Home Secretary, are believed to be against the plan as well as Justine Greening, the MP for Putney and International Development Secretary.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “My department has received the final report from the Airports Commission and will now consider that advice in detail.

“As a nation we must be ambitious and forward looking. This is a once in a generation opportunity to answer a vital question.

“I will make a statement to Parliament later today in which I will set out the process for that decision to be made.”

In response to the Davies Commission's airport recommendation, GLA Conservative transport spokesman and London Assembly Member Richard Tracey, pictured right, said: "Heathrow is the wrong choice and shows the commission was a waste of time and money. It won’t be long before that runway is also at capacity. Soon we’ll have our 4 runways, then 6, but in parts of London that won’t work in sync. The Government now has no choice but to go back to the drawing board. Aviation needs a fresh start in the Capital with a bit of Victorian-style forethought. Instead of a confusing mishmash of runways and half-solutions scattered across the map, let’s get going on a coordinated, common-sense solution fit for the future."

He continued: "Sadly, after all this time and money, the Davis Commission ended up picking the wrong airport. Expanding Gatwick was the right decision for London. It provides South London with an easy link to destinations around the world. This link brings business and local jobs to the area. When Gatwick expands so does the local economy. The Government now has no choice but to go back to the drawing board."

John Stewart Chair of HACAN, said,“Heathrow will face the mother of all challenges to meet the conditions for a 3rd runway set down by Davies. And key members of the Cabinet remain opposed to Heathrow expansion. Faced with these problems there is still no guarantee the Government will back a 3rd runway when it makes its final decision later this year.”

The leaders of Croydon, Kingston, Southwark and Wandsworth Councils have pledged their support to Gatwick’s bid for a second runway and have made their case to Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin. In a joint statement the council leaders said: “Gatwick expansion is a unique opportunity to unlock south London’s vast untapped growth potential. It would significantly enhance our region’s investment appeal and focus international attention on our brownfield opportunities. This part of the city has the potential to deliver new homes, jobs and growth at a scale and pace that cannot be matched.

“We urge the Government to endorse Gatwick’s bid and reenergise the South London region.”

July 3, 2015