Confirmed: Government decides to delay a decision on additional airport capacity - what you need to know

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The Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, has announced that the government will delay a decision on whether to add another runway at Heathrow or Gatwick until after next year’s London Mayoral election pending additional work on air quality. This confirms rumours circulating earlier this week.

Manufacturers will be dismayed by the government’s indecision. As we’ve blogged before airports matter to manufacturers, particularly exporters.

  • The Government ‘agrees’ that the south-east needs more runway capacity and all three shortlisted options (Heathrow new runway, Heathrow runway extension and Gatwick new runway) are still on the table as options.
  • The Government will be testing the Airports Commission’s air quality analysis against projected future concentrations of nitrogen dioxide.
  • They will also look to develop a package of measures on “compensation, maximising local economic opportunities through new jobs and apprenticeships, and measures to tackle noise.”

Many will be perplexed by this as the Government could have, if it had wanted to, asked the Airports Commission to do this work earlier. As an example they had requested the Airports Commission put the Thames Estuary airport (dubbed Boris Island) proposal back into consideration for further analysis before it was finally ruled out.

They “anticipate” this work will conclude by ‘summer’ 2016.

If a decision is finally made next year it will be taken forward as an aviation national policy statement – this should make the process from decision to planning consent a lot faster. This is something we recommended in our submission to the Airports Commission.

Many questions will be floating around over the course of today but the initial ones we need answers to provide clarity are:

  • What is the timetable for the new work and when will a decision actually be made?
  • How will the government ensure this remains transparent to avoid future challenge? Will this work involve the National Infrastructure Commission?
  • What if all 3 options pass the new air quality test? Will that by default mean an expanded Heathrow as recommended by the Airports Commission?

 

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Head of Business Environment Policy

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