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Airports Commission backs Heathrow third runway


Howard Davies’ Airports Commission has published its final report with a recommendation that a third runway be built at Heathrow

Davies’s report said a third runway at Heathrow would deliver the most economic growth to the country, adding £147 billion to the economy and providing 70,000 jobs by 2050.

Despite recommending the option for an additional runway at Heathrow, the report leaves the door open for expansion at Gatwick. The plans, drawn up by Farrells, were described as ‘credible’ but the economic benefits would be smaller and additional capacity would be more focused on short-haul intra-European routes.

A decision on the expansion will not be made for several months and is likely to face fierce opposition.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson had been backing a new four-runway airport in the Thames Gateway, however last year, the commission ruled out the Foster + Partners-designed estuary airport.

Johnson had said a third runway at Heathrow would never be built, even if backed by the commission.

But speaking to the BBC this morning, Davies said Johnson ‘had not come up with a plausible alternative to Heathrow’.

Environmental and residents’ groups had also opposed expansion at Heathrow.

But the planned new runway is sited further west than previous extension proposals in an attempt to reduce the number of people affected by the noise.

The report also recommended that the government make a firm commitment not to continue expansion at the West London airport with a fourth runway.

Commenting on the outcome of the Commission’s report, Davies said: ‘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.’

Heathrow Airport


The west London airport has proposed three options for a third runway either to the north, north west or south west of the existing terminal.

Cost £14 billion - £18 billion

Read the full proposal for Heathrow



Readers' comments (3)

  • We seem to be in a pickle again over Heathrow: there’s a huge vested interest lobby with enormous campaign funds dedicated to expanding Heathrow; there’s a discredited airport’s commission accused of unfairly skewing the choice in favour of Heathrow (and if it had been a level playing field the shortlist would not have been Heathrow or Gatwick but either Goodwin Sands or Stansted – the former for its 24/7 operability, few if any objectors and infinite potential for expansion; the latter (with an extension of Crossrail from Canary Wharf) for siting London’s new airport where permissions for new runways are at lot easier and where it would best serve the UK and give credence to the government’s Northern Powerhouse promise.

    However in all the debates so far we seem only to have focussed on the ‘cost’ as if that was the only criterion. We don’t use that as an excuse in any other life-changing policy decision. We don’t host the Olympics, build Tate Modern or keep an army just because it’s cheap. We wouldn’t do anything worthwhile, ever, if that were the case.

    So it is at Heathrow; we know that jet fuel pollution kills 10,000 annually according to National Geographic; we know too that it causes respiratory diseases in children especially (and so much for London’s new low emission zone); we know that jet noise causes stress and strokes; we know that silent non-polluting aircraft are too far in the future to be a credible option; we know that aircraft are very vulnerable to acts of piracy and terrorism (9/11, Lufthansa, etc); we know that airport security cannot be foolproof (the recent Cathy Pacific pilot at Heathrow found with knives in his bag; the Vienna Airport plot to smuggle illegal immigrants into the UK and desperate stowaways falling from undercarriages over London) ; and we also know that aircraft do sometimes crash (Concord at Paris, the American Airways flight that landed in the Hudson and the BA flight that only just made it on to the runway)… and yet despite all this we still allow these hugely damaging and dangerous vehicles to overfly our capital city.

    In Victoria, London, there are two flight paths that cross: one where the aircraft are at low level and descending, wheels coming out, into Heathrow; the other even lower, barely 1500 ft, crossing and descending into City Airport and they are doing this complex manoeuvre immediately above Buckingham Palace, the House of Parliament and the nation’s most valued citizenry and cultural treasures. What nonsense is that? What other major capital of a civilised country condones such a flagrant flouting of values and for what – the cost?

    Bryan Avery
    London, SW1

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  • J C Muirhead

    Ditch Heathrow all together!
    This will offer London, city wide and beyond, serious long term planning opportunities. To create essential national infrastructure and development providing essential housing and economic benefits.

    First and foremost, before any redevelopment at Heathrow happens, ditch the proposed HS2 spur. The current airport, and what ever it becomes in the future, already has enough public transport connection, and the distance into central London does no warrant 'high speed', it just needs reliability and efficiency.

    Secondly, start Crossrail 2 as soon as possible, using the tunneling spoil, not to create another bird sanctuary, but to bolster the shallow lands in the Thames Estuary. The Isle of Grain was the wrong position of the airport. Out in the middle of the estuary, avoid direct impact of lives of the people Essex and Kent. Start planning the Crossrail 3 route, North West to South East London.

    A new transport island, as it doesn't just have to accommodate air travel but provide a new port for high speed water borne craft, could provide a truly European piece of infrastructure. We have the engineering capabilities to make this work and with right ambition, a massively positive contribution to both the nation and Europe.

    New high speed rail links from both sides of the estuary, connecting back to at least two mainline station in London (say Waterloo (south) and Euston (northern), and perhaps linked with a new central station (TCR/ Centre Point?) to close the loop.

    By closing Heathrow airport, this frees the Heathrow site to become a regeneration zone. A vast, contained, brownfield extension of western London, helping to accommodated the predicted population boom. It has tube and overground connections as well as a good motorway network.

    Substantial green the western fringe beyond the M25, to help London battle its deplorable pollution record. Plant more trees, provide a better quality green belt, upgrade it to an national park stretching from the network of reservoir to Windsor Park. This could offer potential economic growth through increased leisure and tourism.

    Counterbalance this with a new national park in the east, as proposed decades ago by Sir Terry Farrell. Integrating a new flood protection as the current Thames Barrier has a limited life span in relation to the raising sea levels. This could included essential rail and road links; a set of outer M25 standard roads.

    Shifts are already happening, regardless of the Davies Report, stick-in-the-mud Politicians or private Airport operators might want. For example the technologies industries have already shifted the emphasis away from the M4 corridor and into central and east London. Choosing coffee bars on grotty round abouts over the rolling hills of Berkshire and Wiltshire.

    The City and Canary Wharf are booming and London is redressing its balance to the East. Choosing to build higher where they already stand, then relocating, given the choice. Physical expression of confidence is viewed from beyond the UK's boarders and acts as positive financial magnet.

    Let Londoners and their guest get a good nights rest and enjoy their outside space with out the constant roar of planes over head. The opportunity to reduce dramatically London's pollution, safe guard from tidal surges and rising seawater, helping to provide better quality of life for all the city's and Home Counties' citizens, are all by-products of shutting Heathrow and redeveloping the site. They are all legacies that we, the current inhabitants can offer the future generations. Shall that is something to strive for?

    Ditch Heathrow all together!
    (Moaning monied types and VIPS can use Northolt or Farnborough if necessary!)

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  • J C Muirhead

    I forgot to say that I didn't think Boris was being ambitious enough!

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