The Airports Commission has backed a third runway at heathrow as the best option to expand the UK’s runway capacity in the south east of England.
The Commission’s analysis shows that expanded airport capacity is crucial for the UK’s long-term prosperity. While each of the three schemes shortlisted were credible options, the Commission unanimously concluded that the proposal for a new northwest runway at Heathrow Airport offers the “greatest strategic and economic benefits”.
The report said that a new northwest runway at Heathrow will not increase noise above current levels, will generate up to £147 billion in GDP impacts over 60 years and over 70,000 new jobs by 2050, and will add regular daily services from the airport to around 40 new destinations, including 10-12 new long-haul routes.
The Heathrow proposal would deliver a full-length runway and would be situated further west than the current runways, which will help to reduce the number of people affected by noise, and included a number of measures to limit the impact on those living nearby. These include a ban on all scheduled night flights in the period from 23.30 to 06.00, and a new aviation noise levy to fund an expanded programme of mitigation, including noise insulation for homes, schools and other community facilities
Adding a second runway to Gatwick was not ruled out by the report, but the Commission found that the additional capacity would be more focused on short-haul intra-European routes and the economic benefits considerably smaller.
Chairman of the Airports Commission, Sir Howard Davies, said:
“Over the past 2 and a half years, the Airports Commission has reviewed the evidence without preconceptions, consulted widely, and followed an inclusive and integrated process. At the end of this extensive work programme our conclusions are clear and unanimous: the best answer is to expand Heathrow’s capacity through a new northwest runway.
“Heathrow is best-placed to provide the type of capacity which is most urgently required: long haul destinations to new markets. It provides the greatest benefits for business passengers, freight operators and the broader economy.
“Adding capacity at Heathrow also provides an opportunity to change the airport’s relationship with its local communities as some overseas airports have done. To make expansion possible the Commission recommends a comprehensive package of accompanying measures including a ban on night flights and a new noise levy to fund a far stronger and more generous set of compensation and mitigation schemes. And as there is no environmental or operational case for a fourth runway, the government should take action in Parliament to rule it out firmly and finally.
“This is a detailed and comprehensive report, based on a significant volume of technical material, and the government will need to review our analysis carefully. The Commission urges it not to prolong this process, however, and to move as quickly as it can to a decision. Further delay will be increasingly costly and will be seen, nationally and internationally, as a sign that the UK is unwilling or unable to take the steps needed to maintain its position as a well-connected, open trading economy in the twenty-first century.”
The Commission’s decision to support Heathrow expansion over the other proposals may cause issues for the Conservative government, with West London a majority Tory-voting area.
London Mayor Boris Johnson has said that a new runway at Heathrow would have a “catastrophic” effect, while Tory MP for Richmond Park & North Kingston Zac Goldsmith has previously said that he would resign if work began on a third runway at Heathrow.