UK Airports Commission picks Heathrow

Nick Myall
Wednesday 01 Jul 2015

The UK Commission’s decision to back a third runway for Heathrow divides opinion

The UK Airports Commission has today published its final report, which sets out its recommendations to government for expanding aviation capacity in the UK. It has unanimously concluded that the proposal for a new northwest runway at Heathrow Airport, combined with a significant package of measures to address its environmental and community impacts, presents the strongest case and offers the greatest strategic and economic benefits – providing around 40 new destinations from the airport and more than 70,000 new jobs by 2050.

Commenting on the UK Commission’s recommendation Richard Gammon director of HOK’s global Aviation and Transportation practice said: “This is the right decision for the south east and UK PLC, however the main thing is how quickly the government can make a firm decision and how Gatwick will fight it if it goes against them. Gatwick say they will make a legal challenge. The worst course of action now would be to delay a definite decision with the proposal being kicked into the long grass. Government say a decision will be made in the autumn but it could be nearer the end of the year.

“The outcome is a significant decision given the time taken and it would be very brave of government to challenge it as it would also undermine the commission. Unfortunately Gatwick and Heathrow are now in a state of paralysis until a firm decision is made.”

The report describes the strengths and weaknesses of the other short-listed proposals. The Heathrow extended northern runway delivers similar economic benefits, is less costly and requires the loss of fewer homes. But it provides a smaller increase in capacity and is less attractive from a noise and air quality perspective. The Gatwick scheme is feasible, but the additional capacity would be more focused on short-haul intra-European routes and the economic benefits considerably smaller.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson says that a new runway at Heathrow is "not going to happen" despite the Airports Commission's recommendation.

Mr Johnson and likely 2016 Conservative mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith are long-term opponents of Heathrow expansion, which was ruled out by David Cameron in 2009.

Asked on BBC Radio 4's Today programme about his pledge to lie in front of bulldozers if Heathrow expansion was approved, Mr Johnson said: "As it happens, I don't think my services as a bulldozer blocker will be required for decades, if ever."

Mr Johnson repeated his view that an airport in the Thames estuary was the best solution.

He told BBC News the "discomfort being endured" by Londoners on the hottest day of the year "would be nothing compared to the noise pollution that will be visited on hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of innocent people and the vehicular pollution as a result of a catastrophic decision to increase runway capacity in the west of the city. That will not happen."

The Commission’s recommendation is a fundamentally different proposition from previous proposals to expand at Heathrow. It delivers a full-length runway, maximising the connectivity gain. It is situated further west than the current runways, which will help to reduce the number of people affected by noise. And it is accompanied by strong measures to limit the impacts on those living nearby.

For Fosters + Partners reaction to the Airport Commission's decision please visit: Click Here

Nick Myall

News Editor

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