Airports and infrastructure
ABTA believes that there is a need for increased airport capacity in the UK.
The Department for Transport (DfT) Aviation White Paper in December 2003 set out the Government’s plans for the future of aviation. The Government was generally in favour of capacity expansion across the UK and proposed new runways at Stansted and at either Edinburgh or Glasgow. A third short runway was also supported at Heathrow provided environmental issues could be resolved. Failing this a second runway would be considered at Gatwick (but not before 2019 when the agreement with the West Sussex County Council expires).
The Government announced in January 2009 that a third runway and additional terminal facilities at Heathrow had been given the go-ahead (work expected to commence in 2015 with opening in 2019), once strict air quality and noise conditions were shown to be met.
The political controversy surrounding new runways, and the local opposition they inspired, was aired extensively in the run-up to the 2010 General Election. This led the newly formed Coalition Government to place a moratorium on the building of any new runways in the South-East. Instead, the Coalition advocated a ‘better, not bigger’ approach to aviation policy.
In autumn 2012 the Government announced an independent Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, on identifying and recommending options for maintaining the UK’s status as an international hub for aviation. Following a series of consultations on a variety of subjects including airport operational models, aviation noise, connectivity and the economy, the Commission made an interim report in December 2013 and a final report on 1 July 2015.
The Commission’s analysis showed that expanded airport capacity was crucial for the UK’s long-term prosperity. Each of the three schemes shortlisted (second runway at Gatwick; two separate proposals for Heathrow) was considered a credible option for expansion. The Commission unanimously concluded that Heathrow Airport Ltd’s (HAL) own proposal for a new 3,500m runway to the north-west of the existing airport spaced sufficiently to permit fully independent operation, presented the strongest case and offered the greatest strategic and economic benefits.
On 25 October 2016, following undertaking a package of further work on the air quality and greenhouse gas emissions implications of the three shortlisted options, the Government confirmed its backing for Heathrow Airport’s proposal for a third runway.