Heathrow protests gather pace over expansion plan

Suzie Neuwirth
PROTESTERS against a third runway at Heathrow airport are braced for action as transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin yesterday refused to rule out plans to expand the site.

The government-backed Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, is publishing an interim report tomorrow that will provide a shortlist of locations for new runways, with a final report due to be published in 2015.

John Stewart, chairman of the Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise, which has previously campaigned against plans for a third runway at Heathrow, told City A.M. that it appeared the report would be heavily weighted towards expansion at the west London airport.

“Davies has been clear that Heathrow will be where most of the expansion will take place,” he said.

“But Heathrow will be the most difficult, as the opposition to the plans is huge. I’m not convinced a third runway will ever be built.”

McLoughlin told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that any decision on a third runway at Heathrow would be made after the 2015 general election.

London Mayor Boris Johnson and Conservative MP for Richmond Park Zac Goldsmith have both been vocal in their opposition to plans to expand Heathrow, with Johnson backing the creation of a new Thames Estuary airport. Goldsmith said Heathrow expansion would be a “catastrophic” U-turn for prime minister David Cameron.

But Heathrow airport bosses are in favour of expanding the site.

A new report from the Institute of Economic Affairs today argues that government involvement in airport expansion will hinder the growth of low-cost air travel. The research calls for the creation of compensation incentives and a broad decentralisation of the tax system.

Mark Boleat, policy chairman of the City of London Corporation, said in The Forum today that the report will “hopefully, be an important milestone towards UK aviation policy finally getting off the ground” (page 18).