A decision on whether to build an extra runway at Heathrow or Gatwick will be delayed for at least six months.
Senior sources close to the project told the BBC that there needs to be more ‘confidence building’ around the environmental impact of a new runway at Heathrow.
One insider said expansion at Gatwick has not been ruled out, adding that there could be another review following the Howard Davies-led Airport Commission’s recommendation of Heathrow as the site for expansion.
It is hoped that by keeping both Heathrow and Gatwick on the table, the airport operators will be held accountable over dealing with the environmental concerns associated with the expansion, the BBC reported.
This would include demanding that Heathrow bans staff from driving to work or insisting that all ‘airside’ vehicles must be electric.
The government also wants to increase the amount of compensation that would be paid to local residents if either projects are given the go-ahead, according to the BBC.
There is further speculation that the delays are connected to the 2016 mayoral contest, in which the Conservative Party will be represented by Zac Goldsmith, who is opposed to expansion at Heathrow.
The news comes as prime minister David Cameron delivered a speech, in which he said his party was ’delivering on its manifesto commitments’.
In September, Gatwick Airport launched an attack on rival Heathrow, claiming the building of a third runway could violate air quality rules, potentially delaying the project and harming the environment.
Gatwick’s claim came after it said it found air quality on its site to have improved in recent times.
A new report showed that nitrogen dioxide levels at the airport had fallen from 32 to 31 mgs per cu m during 2014, still “well below” the legal limit of 40.