Business groups have responded with apprehension after the government pushed back the decision on whether to build a third runway at Heathrow until next week, and demanded urgent action.
It was anticipated that the government’s decision on the controversial issue would come this week, but a senior transport source told City A.M. that the verdict is not expected until next week at the earliest.
A top FTSE chief executive expressed frustration at the revelations, telling City A.M. it was “very disappointing”, while the Confederation of British Industry added to the chorus, saying the decision “simply cannot wait any longer”.
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A CBI spokesperson said: “Failure to have a new runway up and running by 2030 will cost the UK as much as £5.3bn a year in lost trade to the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries alone.”
“Businesses need to see that government understands the urgency of this decision and is committed to maintaining the positive momentum that has been delivered by a decisive report from the Airports Commission.”
The delay in the decision comes on top of the environmental audit committee report, which told the government not to give the green light for expanding Heathrow until certain environmental conditions have been met to deal with air quality, noise and emissions, leading to speculation that Prime Minister David Cameron could be kicking the decision into the long grass.
Responding to the delay, Gavin Hayes, director of the Let Britain Fly campaign said: “As long as the committee meets next week it should be able to get a decision out. However, if it is pushed back any further there is a risk the decision won’t come until the New Year.” He added:
“The government has had the Airport Commission report since July and for the business community we simply don’t want to see any more dithering or delays.”
In July the Airports Commission, led Sir Howard Davies, said its preferred choice for increasing aviation capacity was a third runway at Heathrow, instead of a second runway at Gatwick Airport or even elongating one of the existing runways at Heathrow.
The Prime Minister has pledged to make a decision by the end of the year, which is set to put him in a difficult position given his 2009 “no ifs, no buys” promise that there would not be a third runway at Heathrow.