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Airports Commission recommends Heathrow

The Airports Commission has concluded that the proposal for a new northwest runway at Heathrow Airport presents the strongest case for airport expansion and offers the greatest strategic and economic benefits.

The report said the scheme would provide around 40 new destinations from the airport and more than 70,000 new jobs by 2050.

It also said this needed to be combined with a significant package of measures to address its environmental and community impacts.

One of the Commission’s most telling conclusion was that expanding airport capacity will be “crucial for the UK’s long-term prosperity”.

London First commented extensively in the media on the report, including in the Financial Times, as well as on the BBC, Sky, LBC Radio.

When the report was released, Baroness Jo Valentine, Chief Executive of London First, set out our priorities for government activity.

“With half a century of indecision on airports expansion behind us, it’s time for the government to implement the recommendation and get on with a new runway at Heathrow,” she said.

“Anything else is now inexcusable.

“After three years of investigation, the Commission has unambiguously concluded that expanding Heathrow will boost the UK economy and reinforce London as a global hub for business.

“Yes, Sir Howard’s report shows there are obstacles – particularly noise and environmental – but he has also demonstrated that these can and should be overcome.

“The report gives the Government an up-to-date, comprehensive, and independent analysis of our runway needs.

 “But with any new runway a decade away and our major airports already at bursting point, there are lots of things the government could be doing right now to bridge the gap.

“This means reducing the number of planes stuck in holding patterns, cutting border queues, and speeding up rail journeys – particularly to Stansted – so people use a wider range of airports.

“We also need the Government to reverse the Mayor’s absurd decision to block expansion at City Airport.”

The alternatives

The Commission said that the ‘Heathrow Hub’ plan – an extended northern runway – would deliver similar economic benefits, is less costly and requires the loss of fewer homes.

But it provides a smaller increase in capacity and is less attractive from a noise and air quality perspective, it added.

Sir Howard also highlighted the Gatwick scheme, saying it was financeable and achievable, but the additional capacity would be more focused on short-haul intra-European routes and the economic benefits smaller.

Environment and Community

The measures set out by the Commission to limit the impacts on those living near Heathrow include:

  • a ban on all scheduled night flights in the period from 11.30pm to 6.00am, which is only possible with expansion
  • no fourth runway: the government should make a firm commitment in Parliament not to expand the airport further – there is no sound operational or environmental case for a fourth runway at Heathrow
  • a legally binding ‘noise envelope’ putting firm limits on the level of noise created by the airport
  • a new aviation noise levy to fund an expanded programme of mitigation, including noise insulation for homes, schools and other community facilities
  • a legal commitment on air quality that new capacity will only be released when it is clear that compliance with EU limits will not be delayed
  • a Community Engagement Board, under an independent chair, with real influence over spending on mitigation and compensation and over the airport’s operations
  • an independent aviation noise authority, with a statutory right to be consulted on flightpaths and other operating procedures at all UK airports
  • provision of training opportunities and apprenticeships for local people, so that nearby communities benefit from the jobs and economic opportunities

Contact: David Leam,

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