Third runway decision is put on hold again
‘Realistic’ date likely to be in October
A FINAL decision on whether to expand Heathrow Airport by building a third runway has been delayed again, a transport minister announced on Thursday morning (June 30).
An announcement on expanding an airport in the south-east was expected to be made this summer, but after Britain voted to leave the European Union and with an impending change of Prime Minister, the decision has been pushed back again.
But a spokesperson for Heathrow has suggested expanding the west London airport should be a ‘key building block’ of the government’s Brexit plan.
Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday morning, the transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “I had hoped we would be able to announce the decision this summer.
“Clearly any announcement on the airport capacity would have to be made when the house is in session.
“Being realistic, given recent events, I can’t now foresee any announcement until October.”
A year ago, on July 1 2015, the Airports Commission backed expansion of Heathrow with a third runway.
But in the wake of the Brexit vote on Thursday June 23, some have argued the project was ‘much less likely’.
A spokesperson for Heathrow Airport has rejected this claim though, saying a third runway should be part of the plan for bolstering Britain’s economy outside of the EU.
The spokesperson said: “If Britain wants to be confident, outwardlooking and at the centre of the world’s economy then expanding Heathrow must be a key building block in the government’s Brexit plan.
“It will allow British exporters to trade with all the growing markets of the world, strengthening Britain’s position as one of the great trading nations.
“And at a time of uncertainty, a £16 billion privately funded infrastructure investment will create jobs and growth across the UK.
“The government can send the strongest possible signal that Britain is open for business and confident in its future by expanding Heathrow.”
According to the Davies Commission, which was tasked with investigating the best option for airport expansion, a third runway would create 40,000 jobs across five London boroughs, and a further 140,000 elsewhere in the UK.
This week, Labour peer Lord David Blunkett was appointed chairman of the Heathrow Skills Taskforce, which aims to ensure there are enough skilled workers to hold those positions.
The Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (HACAN) has campaigned vehemently against the third runway.
Chairman of the campaign group, John Stewart, said: “This was inevitable.
“Given the decisions within the cabinet, David Cameron would not have been able to saddle a new prime minister with a new runway.
“It is likely now that the runway question will become an issue in the race to become prime minister.
“There will be pressure on each candidate to spell out where they stand.”
The former current bookies’ favourite to be prime minister, Uxbridge MP Boris Johnson, has publicly opposed Heathrow expansion, instead touting an airport in the Thames Estuary – dubbed ‘Boris Island.’
But this proposal was shot down by the Davies Commission in 2014.
Johnson announced he would not run for prime minister on Thursday June 30.
Current contenders who have announced they will stand to be the next prime minister are the home secretary Theresa May, justice secretary Michael Gove, former defence secretary Liam Fox, junior energy minister Andrea Leadsom and work and pensions minister Stephen Crabb.