Heathrow expected to get runway approval, but Gatwick warns of groundhog day
24 / 10 / 2016
Heathrow Airport is expected to be given UK government backing for expansion tomorrow while rival Gatwick has warned that approving an extra runway at the west London airport will result in "groundhog day".
Headlines in today’s UK press suggest that the government will tomorrow reveal its backing for adding an extra runway at Heathrow airport.
The Times newspaper says that a cabinet committee will reject pollution concerns and “rubber stamp” the expansion at Heathrow, “barring a last minute wobble”.
In a leader article in the Daily Telegraph, Sir Howard Davies, who chaired that Airports Commission that last year recommended an extra runway at Heathrow over Gatwick, said the vote to leave the European Union meant that the west London airport was now the overwhelming choice because of the wide variety of global connections offered from the airport.
In contrast, he said, Gatwick was largely a shorthaul, tourist airport.
However, in a press release sent out by Gatwick this morning, it warned that it would be groundhog day if an extra runway at Heathrow was given the go-ahead.
The airport pointed out that expansion at Heathrow had been approved twice before.
In December 2003, transport secretary Alistair Darling published a white paper on a third runway and sixth terminal at Heathrow with completion expected by 2015.
Challenges over noise and air pollution were identified and subsequently led to delay and division.
Similarly, in January 2009, transport secretary Geoff Hoon announced the government had approved a third runway at Heathrow and asserted that air quality around the airport, even with expansion, would be within legal limits by 2015.
Gatwick Chief Executive Stewart Wingate said: “Airport expansion has been in a holding pattern for decades. We are finally getting to the point of decision again.
"The choice is crystal clear — growth at Gatwick or Groundhog Day at Heathrow. There is one reason why Heathrow has repeatedly tried and failed to expand — its location. Many things have changed in this debate but Heathrow is still based at Heathrow.
“Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. Now is the time for Britain to abandon the failed orthodoxy of the past and choose certainty. We can’t afford another false start.
“Gatwick offers an end to this debate by providing a deliverable solution for balanced economic growth across the UK. With all the economic benefits at a fraction of the impacts, it is the obvious solution.”
Meanwhile, Gatwick chairman Sir Roy McNulty has today written to the members of the Economic and Industrial Strategy (Airports) sub-Committee to outline why Gatwick should be expanded.
He argues that an extra runway at Gatwick was "low risk" and would be "straight forward to build", pointing out that expansion at Heathrow would involve building a tunnel for the M25 road.
“Britain needs a competitive new runway open as soon as possible, a failsafe path to overseas markets and to growth. And that puts a premium on certainty," he said.
"Give Gatwick the green light and we can help guarantee balanced growth for all of Britain. A London with two world class airports can send a powerful signal to the world that Britain is truly open for business.”
Last week, it was revealed that the cabinet committee would announce which airport it backed this week.
However, a final vote on whether to go ahead with that decision will not take place until the end of next year.
Unusually, during this period of around 12 months, members of parliament (MPs) will be allowed to dissent publicly on behalf of their constituents, but would not be able to campaign against the government or speak against it in parliament.
It is not yet known if MPs will be able to vote freely on the plans.