City ramps up pressure on politicians to push ahead with Heathrow expansion after fresh jitters over delays

 
Rebecca Smith
Concerns have been raised over delays to the already long debated expansion of Heathrow
Concerns have been raised over delays to the already long debated expansion of Heathrow (Source: Getty)

The City has issued a rallying cry to MPs to push ahead with Heathrow airport’s expansion, warning that delays could hamper financial and professional services firms’ ability to do business globally.

The City of London Corporation today urged the Liberal Democrats, whose party conference is currently underway, “to not stand in the way of Heathrow expansion”.

The Corporation’s policy chair Catherine McGuinness, said: “Increased airport capacity at Heathrow is near the top of the list when we speak to firms about what can do to help them trade more, create jobs and invest for the future.”

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Speaking at the party conference yesterday, Lib Dem leader Vince Cable said: “I want our party to remain where we were, which is opposed to Heathrow expansion, strong on the environment, protective of our climate change obligations, but committed to support business, but in a practical way that rebalances the UK.”

The Labour party is also reportedly mulling a vote against the third runway at Heathrow airport.

Meanwhile, Lord Adonis, head of the National Infrastructure Commission, said last week he thought the chances of a final decision on expansion materialising next year is “no more than 50:50”.

Adonis told the London Infrastructure Summit that a combination of factors including foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who has been a vocal opponent of Heathrow expansion, “will conspire against a decision being taken next year”.

The former transport secretary also warned that a review into air quality could delay the process by another five years.

The fresh jitters over delays come after transport secretary Chris Grayling announced earlier this month there would be yet another consultation on Heathrow expansion plans, delayed due to the General Election in June.

A final national policy statement (NPS) is now to go before the House of Commons in the first half of next year, a push back from the original plan of winter 2017-18.

Despite this, Grayling is adamant the new consultation will not hamper Heathrow’s timeline.

“This government remains committed to realising the benefits that airport expansion could bring, and I can confirm that we do not expect this additional period of consultation to impact on the timetable for parliamentary scrutiny of the NPS,” he said earlier this month.

But business groups remain concerned over delays to an already drawn-out process.

A spokesperson for the Confederation of British Industry warned: “We can’t allow progress to stall on this, or other major infrastructure projects, if we want to set ourselves up for success post-Brexit.”

Meanwhile, Edwin Morgan, interim director of policy at the Institute of Directors, said: “Businesses have already been waiting years for this and so are keen to see spades in the ground."

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