Heathrow expansion row flares up again in lead-up to General Election as Boris Johnson says it will be "difficult to deliver"

 
Rebecca Smith
Heathrow's third runway was green lit by the government in October
Heathrow's third runway was green lit by the government in October (Source: Getty)

The expansion of Heathrow airport is back in the spotlight ahead of the General Election as parties have offered up differing takes on the development in their manifestos.

Yesterday, foreign secretary Boris Johnson, whose opposition to a third runway at the London airport is well-known, spoke out against it once more.

Read more: Heathrow lifts full-year forecast on soaring passenger numbers

Johnson told ITV News: "I don't think it's the right solution", just a day after his party manifesto re-committed itself to the plans.

"I'll be honest with I think it's very difficult to deliver. I just think noise pollution, the vehicular pollution, the air pollution, these are things that really have to be addressed," he added.

The Liberal Democrats have said in their manifesto, also unveiled this week, that they remained opposed to "any expansion of Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick and any new airport in the Thames Estuary", and plan to focus instead on improving existing regional airports, such as Birmingham and Manchester.

Labour said it "recognises the need for additional airport capacity in the South East" and pledged that any airport expansion "adheres to our tests that require noise issues to be addressed".

On green lighting the Heathrow proposal, the government did say MPs with "long-held views and constituency issues" will have the chance to speak out against it in an "exceptional and limited" arrangement.

The special dispensation also came with caveats: they can't actively campaign against the government's position, nor criticise or call into question the decision-making process itself.

Meanwhile, the No Third Runway coalition, which was set up earlier this year with campaign groups, parliamentary candidates and local authorities to oppose Heathrow expansion, has flagged the brevity of the mentions in the respective manifestos as a concern.

Robert Barnstone, coordinator of the coalition, said: “The lack of detail in the manifesto is a concern for both the local communities affected and for the taxpayers who are being held liable for an unspecified contribution of public capital. The proposals for delivering a third runway are simply not credible.”

A spokesperson for Heathrow however, said: "The Conservative manifesto’s commitment to support Heathrow expansion is a significant boost to keep the UK connected to new trading markets and spread growth across all of Britain."

“Politicians from across the political divide and large and small businesses in every corner of Britain want to see Heathrow expansion delivered as soon as possible," they added.

Read more: Half of Heathrow's 25,000 noise complaints were made by 10 people

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