'Environmental concerns' delay airport expansion decision
Airport expansion around London must include “ambitious solutions” to tackle the environmental impact, the UK government has said.
A decision on whether to expand Heathrow or Gatwick has been delayed by at least six months until next summer, but in a statement, the Department for Transport confirmed: “The government has accepted the case for airport expansion in the south-east and the Airports Commission’s shortlist of options for expansion.”
Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin added: “The case for aviation expansion is clear, but it’s vitally important we get the decision right so that it will benefit generations to come. We will undertake more work on environmental impacts, including air quality, noise and carbon.”
Work will now continue for the next six months or so on estimating future projections of nitrogen dioxide emissions and on a package of mitigation measures. The DfT said: “The government expects the airports to put forward ambitious solutions.”
McLoughlin has not ruled out favouring Gatwick instead of Heathrow despite the recommendations of the Davies Commission that the main London hub should get a third runway. Delaying a firm decision on which airport to favour has drawn widespread criticism from the business and airline sectors.
Dale Keller, chief executive of the Board of Airline Representatives (BAR) UK said: “The Airports Commission spent almost three years - and £20 million, to produce the most detailed independent report of its type ever commissioned. It therefore seems inconceivable that the Government has had insufficient time, or a lack of information, to make the decision it long promised."
Many believe that the environmental issue is a tactic to delay a decision until after the London mayoral election in May. The government’s own candidate, Zac Goldsmith, is a staunch opponent of expanding Heathrow.