The government should stop ‘dithering’ over a decision on airport expansion and give the green light for a third runway at Heathrow to be built, MPs have said.
In a report on airport expansion published today, the transport select committee called on the government to back Heathrow “without delay”, saying the airport provided the “greatest economic benefit” for the UK.
According to the AJ’s sister title Construction News, the committee of 11 MPs agreed that any further delay ’would create uncertainty’ throughout the global business community and potentially affect companies’ willingness to make long-term investments in the country.
The committee’s calls echo those from the country’s leading construction firms, who in February wrote a letter to chancellor George Osborne urging him to back a runway at Heathrow.
The report from the committee comes after series of delays over a decision on airport expansion.
Last July the Airports Commission led by Howard Davies put forward a third runway at Heathrow as the best option for airport expansion in the South-east.
A decision was then expected last December but this was postponed until the summer, with transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin saying further tests had to be carried out before a decision could be made.
The committee said the Airport Commission provided ’the opportunity to end years of political dithering on the issue’ but this chance had now been ‘squandered’ by the government’s indecision.
It criticised the government for lacking transparency over the rationale behind the delays and said that it did not think extra work needed to be carried out before a decision on the location of an extra runway was made.
It urged McLoughlin to set out a clear timetable for a decision immediately, outlining what additional work was needed, when this would be finished and to give a clear date for when the Cabinet would make a decision on the location.
Since Heathrow was put forward as the preferred option for airport expansion last summer, the plan has faced heavy criticism over the environmental impact it will have on local residents and those living in west London.
In November, Transport for London said it would require an extra £20billion of funding to develop the transport infrastructure to support a third runway at Heathrow.
Responding to these concerns, the committee said that while it believed these concerns deserved ’careful consideration’, both could be managed as part of the preconstruction phase after a decision was made.
Committee chair Louise Ellman said: ’The government must make up its mind. The decision on location is not the end of the process, it is the start of one. Real progress cannot begin until the location is declared.
’Work on environmental issues can run in parallel with other preconstruction work.
’The months ticking by constitute time wasted for the UK’s economic prosperity. UK plc needs to know that a decision will be taken.
’Doing nothing means the UK continues to lose out.’
A Gatwick spokesman said: ’The transport committee’s astonishing statement that the arguments ‘for and against airport expansion have changed little in a quarter of a century’ ignores the significant change within the aviation industry following the break-up of the BAA monopoly in 2009 and the worsening of air quality in the UK which has repeatedly halted Heathrow’s plans in the past.
’In one key respect, however, the committee is right to say that nothing has changed – Heathrow is still undeliverable.
’Fortunately, there is now a credible alternative at Gatwick that can mean Britain finally gets on with it.
’The opportunity to end decades of delay and false starts can only be achieved by giving the green light for Gatwick expansion.’
Heathrow airport’s third runway by day
Source: Heathrow airport
It is understood just four teams remain in the running in the contest to design Heathrow’s ‘terminal of the future’ following a series of initial assessments.
The airport had asked a raft of big names to come up with ambitious concepts for an innovative new Terminal Six (T6) to service the proposed third runway.
Now, according to sources, the frontrunners for the ’visioning’ project are:
- Zaha Hadid Architects
- HOK with Heatherwick Studios
An official announcement on the shortlist is not expected until the end of the month.