DEBATE: Does the UK economy need a third runway at Heathrow?

Heathrow is desperately full (Source: Getty)

Does the UK economy need a third runway at Heathrow?

James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East England Chamber of Commerce, says YES.

The cabinet backed Heathrow’s North West runway plan for the same reason the independent Airports Commission recommended it in 2016: Heathrow is the UK’s only hub airport.

The Commission came to that conclusion after four years of rigorous analysis, and after reviewing over 50 alternatives to the Heathrow scheme.

North-east businesses need access to an expanded Heathrow which, as a global gateway, can support our national aviation network and provide flights no other airport can. Heathrow flies to over 130 international markets, enabling exporters of all sizes from Newcastle to Newquay to trade with the world, and brings in foreign investment to every corner of the country.

But it is desperately full. Key trading routes are at capacity, while competitors in Europe and the Middle East are expanding their hubs to win new routes to emerging markets. Britain will fall further behind if Heathrow does not expand.

It is simply irresponsible to suggest that expansion is bad for global Britain. Britain’s economy needs Heathrow expansion now.

Read more: Political paralysis is nothing new – look at Heathrow

Justine Greening, Conservative MP for Putney, says NO.

Britain is an island without an airports strategy. Successive governments have failed to confront this simple fact.

Our hub airport, Heathrow, is in a densely built-up area, so it’s polluting to people nearby and expensive to expand. That will put even more pressure on the viability of domestic routes, including to the north and Scotland. Regional international flights are projected to fall as a result of Heathrow expansion.

Instead, first, get on with south-east capacity by expanding cheaper Gatwick. Second, have a proper UK-wide airports strategy to help our regional airports grow, not shrink, providing capacity and connectivity on the doorstep for people.

The first direct, non-stop flight from Sydney to London shows that the future is point-to-point. Passengers prefer the convenience and lower cost of flying direct.

The Heathrow third runway proposal is a twentieth century hub proposal in a twenty-first century point-to-point world; a London-centric approach when we need a UK-wide vision. It’s time to get a long-term strategy.

Read more: Former Airports Commission chairs urge MPs to back third runway

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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