Sir Howard Davies' Airports Commission report backs third runway at Heathrow - but says Gatwick is a "credible" option

Sarah Spickernell
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The commission was launched to make a recommendation in 2012 (Source: Getty)
Howard Davies' Airports Commission has recommended building a new runway at Heathrow, rather than Gatwick.
The long-awaited report, revealed this morning, called a new runway at Heathrow the "clear and unanimous" decision, and suggested it could provide £147bn in economic growth and 70,000 jobs by 2050.
However, it also added a new runway at Gatwick was a "credible" option".
“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, freight operators and the broader economy," said Davies.
To ensure the new runway has a minimum effect on those living in the surrounding areas, the commission also recommended a "package" of measures to reduce noise.
These included:
  • A ban on night flights
  • A firm commitment from the government not to build a fourth runway
  • A legally binding "noise envelope" putting limits on noise created by the airport
  • An aviation "noise levy"
  • A legal commitment on air quality
  • A community engagement board under an independent chair
  • An independent aviation noise authority
  • Training opportunities and apprenticeships for local people
The government has been looking at increasing capacity at the capital's increasingly over-burdened airports since the 1970s, although Davies was commissioned three years ago to investigate rival proposals from Heathrow and Gatwick. A new, floating airport in the Thames Estuary had also been proposed and backed by Boris Johnson, but that was ruled out by the commission in September last year.
By recommending Heathrow, the commission has confirmed widespread speculation it would favour a third runway or the extension of an existing runway there.

Not set in stone

Although importance has been placed on Davies' decision, he doesn't have the final say – ultimately it's up to the government, and the final decision may not come for another six months.
In fact, some believe the report will have little impact, and that it was intentionally written in a way to suggest neither choice would be a bad one for the government to make. This leaves the government free to do as it pleases.
If Prime Minister David Cameron does take the advice offered, £18bn will be spent on building a 3.5km runway at Heathrow, double what a new runway at Gatwick would have cost.
Long-term, however, the economic benefit to London is estimated to be higher than an extra runway at Gatwick would have brought.

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