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Budget 2012: government hints at London airport growth

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Chancellor George Osborne has given a further boost to Foster + Partners’ self-funded vision for a new airport in the Thames Estuary in today’s budget announcement

Osborne effectively repeated pledges made before Christmas ‘to look more closely’ at aviation capacity and said the government would reveal how it intended to keep London connected to burgeoning overseas markets in the summer.

The coalition government had previously opposed a third runway at Heathrow but now appears to be readying the public for a new airport growth plan.

He said: ‘This country must confront the lack of airport capacity in the South East of England - we cannot cut ourselves off from the fastest growing cities in the world. The Transport Secretary will set out Government thinking later this summer.’

Earlier this year the government said it would launch a consultation over proposals to build a new airport in the Thames Estuary following the publication by Foster and Halcrow for a £50 billion, four runway Thames Hub on the Isle of Grain, Essex in November last year.

Peter Farmer, head of airports at 3DReid, said: ‘We await with bated breath the Government’s revised stance on airport capacity in the South East, however expanding capacity should be a “no brainer.”

‘The question will be how and where. The country and economy needs a medium and long term solution and it needs greater hub capacity, not just more domestic or point to point traffic. A new airport in the Thames may provide a solution for long term capacity, but it is at least 15 to 20 years off.

He added: ‘The only viable option is to proceed with a third runway at Heathrow in the shorter term before any more ground is lost to our European counterparts. The question is, will the Government be strong enough to renege on their decision? Time will tell, but every major developer in London appreciates the importance of the right decisions being made quickly.’

Jonathan Riley, planning partner and airports experts at international law firm Pinsent Masons, said: ‘Taken with the Prime Minister’s speech on Monday, it seems the Government are taxiing for a u-turn on south east airport capacity.

‘The language of confrontation suggests one or more new runways will be supported in next week’s launch of the aviation framework - then the debate begins as to where they should be built - Heathrow, Boris Island or elsewhere.’

Speaking about the future of the nation’s infrastructure generally, Osborne said: ‘We also want investment from British pension funds in British infrastructure - and we’re now working with a dozen of the largest pension schemes specifically on that. We’re the first British government to set out in a National Infrastructure Plan the projects we are going to prioritise in the coming decade.

‘The roads, railways, clean energy and water, and broadband networks we need are all identified.’

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