Airports await expansion takeoff

The much anticipated decision on airport expansion at Heathrow or Gatwick has now been put on hold in the wake of the EU referendum result and will now be left to the next UK Prime Minister to announce plans sometime in October.

The impasse of decision-making on airport expansion has been harshly criticised by leading business figures, including the CBI warning that delays on runway construction could mean the UK losing out on trade worth potentially £22.5bn to France and Germany and a £30bn trade loss with Brazil, India, Russia and China by 2030.

Paul Drechsler, president of the CBI, is urging the government to make a swift decision “with a clear timetable for action immediately after entering Downing Street, so that construction can begin by 2020”.

With uncertainty continuing, both Heathrow and Gatwick issued new statements in the wake of the Brexit vote in an attempt to keep their expansion campaigns high up on the agenda.

Heathrow’s proposed £17bn third runway bid received the valuable backing of Sir Howard Davies’ Airports Commission recommendation in July 2015, tempered by stringent conditions on tackling the effects of increased noise and air pollution. And, the airport’s post-Brexit statement called for the government “to make the right choice for the future of the UK, putting the interests of the country first’, with Heathrow’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye suggesting that that the UK needed to branch out “to the world, not just Europe for our growth in the future”.

In contrast, Gatwick’s post-referendum statement CEO Stewart Wingate highlighted Gatwick’s confidence at delivering a proposed new runway by 2025 “without public subsidy and within environmental limits which Heathrow could never approach”.

Airport expansion of Heathrow and Gatwick has long been a political and social hot topic with each side garnering emotive responses now even more heightened in the wake of the Brexit referendum result. But, with big business lamenting the loss of delay, small businesses could find the uncertainty gives more time to make plans to capitalise on expansion.

Last year’s Airports Commission recommendation of a third Heathrow runway included backing from many local entrepreneurs clamouring for increased flights to more destinations to boost exports. Expansion at Heathrow would add 40 new destinations including 12 long-haul routes, with the added boost of an estimated 70,000 new jobs and a £147bn GDP enhancement.

But, some campaigners are suggesting that the very limiting noise and pollution stipulations on Heathrow’s plans could mean that Gatwick’s expansion can be the only viable option.

A southeast-based campaign comprising 36 business groups with a combined membership of more than 15,000 businesses recently lobbied the government arguing that Gatwick expansion would mean the creation of thousands of new jobs and an added £1.7bn to the local economy.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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